In the recording, posted on Twitter by the Maricopa County Democratic Party, Adel talks about being surprised about the breed of one of her dogs after doing a DNA test.
"And apparently he's 80 percent Pomeranian, but in this day and age when you can self-select your gender, I'm saying he's an American Eskimo," Adel jokes in the recording, an apparent reference to transgender and non-binary people.
Edder Diaz-Martinez, the county Democrats' communications director, said the recording is from a private fundraiser in July and the organization was sent it anonymously. He said they edited out around an additional 15 seconds from the clip they received that were not relevant.
While the idea of "choosing" a gender has been the butt of right-wing jokes, trans people have long been clear that their gender is not a choice but something inherent. While not all agree with medicalizing gender identity, current medical literature recognizes the value of affirming the gender that trans people identify with.
The Democratic Party called the comments by Adel, a Republican appointed to the position last October, "reprehensible and vile" and called for support for Adel's Democratic opponent, Julie Gunnigle.
In a statement to Phoenix New Times, Adel apologized for the comment.
""I have tremendous respect for the LGBTQ+ community and I advocate daily for inclusivity within the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and our broader community," she said. "I apologize for the insensitive comment and deeply regret it."
A spokesperson for her campaign noted that Adel has signed the county attorney's office on to a pledge to support equal treatment for LGBTQ people and ended an anti-gay adoption policy.
In a statement released last night, Gunnigle called the remark bigoted and hateful. She pointed out that transgender people face higher rates of violence and suicide than the general population.
Trans rights are human rights.— Julie Gunnigle (@JulieGunnigle) September 11, 2020
I will not amplify the hateful speech of my opponent.
Here's my full statement: pic.twitter.com/oR8jVqrJCx
A 2018 report from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation identified a link between stigma towards transgender people and the disproportionate violence they face.
Adel's comments come a day after Mark Kelly, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate candidate, apologized for saying his brother, also an astronaut, suffered from DNA changes that made him like a monkey, so "we even changed his named to Rodrigo."