Julie Gunnigle

Julie Gunnigle, left, a Democrat, challenges incumbent Republican Allister Adel in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office race.

In addition to federal and state representative races, Glendale voters will weigh in on the Maricopa County attorney race.

Julie Gunnigle, the Democratic candidate for Maricopa County attorney who is running against Republican incumbent Allister Adel, said she has a plan to make the criminal justice system a “just and fair system.” 

Gunnigle outlined her plan Sept. 29 during a community information session.

The Scottsdale resident said she decided to run for the Maricopa County attorney because she believes that the county does not have “enough accountability” within the government. If successful, she would be the first Democrat elected to the position in 40 years.

Adel was appointed Maricopa County attorney Oct. 3, 2019, after Bill Montgomery resigned to become a state Supreme Court justice.

According to Adel’s campaign website, for seven years before her appointment she was a deputy county attorney, serving in the Vehicular Crimes, Gang and Drug Enforcement bureaus. She also was the chief administrative law judge for the Arizona Department of Transportation and general counsel for the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

“My top priority is to ensure justice in this community,” Adel says on her website.

Gunnigle’s campaign website states she graduated from the University of Notre Dame Law School, then was an assistant state’s attorney in Cook County, Illinois, where she prosecuted financial crime and public corruption.

She said she will focus on prosecuting “criminals who target the most vulnerable Arizonans,” instead of those charged with nonviolent crimes and low-level drug possessions.

Gunnigle said low-level drug possession represents two-thirds of the cases that come through the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and that “a Black Arizonan was four times more likely” to be convicted of a marijuana offense than a white Arizonan.

Manuel Porchini, 19-year-old resident of Peoria, agreed with Gunnigle, who urged support of Proposition 208, aimed at increasing school funding.

“The best thing that we can do if we believe in our children and we believe in ending the school-to-prison pipeline is to fully fund public education. That is the greatest predictor of whether or not a child will live forever in our criminal justice system,” Gunnigle said.

If elected, Gunnigle said, “on day one,” she and her team will dismiss all low-level marijuana offenses.

“We don’t have treatment in prison. There’s fewer than a dozen beds in most of our facilities to treat people who have substance use disorders or mental health issues. And it’s unjust because you can’t incarcerate an addiction out of someone, just as you can’t incarcerate a mental health issue out of someone,” Gunnigle said.

Porchini agreed dismissing low-level marijuana charges will be beneficial.

“Marijuana is being accepted throughout many states,” Porchini said. “If you do get caught with a small amount of marijuana, you should be fined—you should not be put into jail.”