PHOENIX (AP) — The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors announced Friday that they may appoint one of three Republicans running to replace former County Attorney Allister Adel to temporarily fill her post, a move that would help that person's election chances.
But first, the board wants all three to interview for the interim position and answer questions in writing about how they'd do the job, including whether they believe the Republican-dominated board made a mistake when they certified the 2020 election results.
The board has been heavily criticized by some Republicans for certifying President Joe Biden's win but has steadfastly stood by the results and its election procedures.
The three Republicans seeking the post in the August primary are Anni Foster, Gov. Doug Ducey's top lawyer, Goodyear city prosecutor Gina Godbehere, and Rachel Mitchell, a longtime county prosecutor who briefly served as interim county attorney in 2019 and was a Republican counsel during U.S. Senate hearings on the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The lone Democrat to make the ballot is Julie Gunnigle, an attorney and former prosecutor who ran against Adel in 2020 who advocates for criminal justice reform.
Adel resigned last month amid criticism of her performance, including the dismissal of 180 misdemeanor cases because charges were not filed before the statute of limitations expired. She also was facing scrutiny over whether an admitted alcohol abuse problem was affecting her ability to do the job.
Gunnigle said the board's decision to appoint Adel in 2019 led to her using her post to campaign and “engage in political prosecutions.” She said fixing the county attorney's office is a full time job that requires someone to run it full time and not campaign for office.
Adel’s office and the Phoenix Police Department were criticized heavily in a now-discredited gang case brought against demonstrators at an October 2020 protest against police brutality.
The board must appoint a Republican for the job under state law, but does not have to consider naming one of the candidates.
Board Chair Bill Gates did not immediately respond to questions about whether appointing one of the GOP candidates would give them an unfair advantage in the primary or November's general election.
"This process will allow us to get to know the candidates better and determine if one of them is the right fit to serve in this position until voters choose a new County Attorney in November,” Gates said in a statement.