Republicans may have seen many of their dreams dashed in Arizona on Election Day, but in Maricopa County (whose votes denied their Senate and gubernatorial candidates wins), voters chose a top prosecutor with views that dovetail with the party’s line on crime.
Democrat Julie Gunnigle conceded this week to Republican Rachel Mitchell in the Maricopa County attorney’s race, capping off a contest that had shaped up to be a test of the liberal message on criminal justice.
Gunnigle focused in large part on abortion, promising that if elected, she would not prosecute any violations of the state’s abortion law.
Mitchell, by contrast, promised to go after violent crime and uphold laws as written. She represented a foil to the idea, popular among leftist circles, that elected prosecutors should view laws through the lens of identity politics.
“Did Julie Gunnigle, a Democrat seeking to become Maricopa County attorney by prosecuting the office itself, run one of the worst campaigns ever?” read the opening of an op-ed on the Arizona Republic published Tuesday. “It was no surprise that Mitchell supporters linked Gunnigle to progressive elected district attorneys like those in San Francisco and elsewhere whose policies of more lenient prosecution suffered backlash from the public and voters alike.”
Liberal criminal justice reform policies have indeed provoked a backlash across the country after crime rates have risen in the face of advocacy for less aggressive policing.
Lawmakers in Pennsylvania are attempting to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner over concerns that his progressive reforms, such as ending cash bail, have worsened the city’s crime problem.
Voters in San Francisco recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin earlier this year over frustration with his refusal to prosecute lower-level criminal offenses.
And Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin ran a historically competitive GOP gubernatorial campaign by focusing largely on crime and promising to fire Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whom critics have accused of worsening New York City’s street crime problem.
Gunnigle ignored many of those warning signs, critics say. She continued emphasizing divergence programs for many offenders and other reforms that voters may have perceived as being soft on crime.
Her loss in Maricopa County was among the few bits of good news in Arizona for Republicans on election night, along with some wins in key House races.
Republican Blake Masters lost the Senate race, Republican Kari Lake lost the governor’s race, Republican Mark Finchem lost the secretary of state race, and Republican Abraham Hamadeh was trailing in the uncalled attorney general’s race as of Friday.