Democrat Gunnigle streaks to big lead in race to face Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel
By: Lauren Castle Arizona Republic
Julie Gunnigle was outpacing her two Democratic challengers in the race to face Republican Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel in the Nov. 3 general election.
Gunnigle led by a 3–1 margin over her nearest challenger, Will Knight, followed by Robert McWhirter.
On Twitter, the Maricopa County Democratic Party named Gunnigle as its nominee.
“On to victory in November,” the party tweeted.
Adel is running unopposed in the Republican primary.
Early voting has been underway for nearly a month with mail-in voting and at vote centers around the county.
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Adel was appointed county attorney by the Board of Supervisors in October after the governor appointed former County Attorney Bill Montgomery to the Arizona Supreme Court.
She told The Republic in a statement on Tuesday that she is looking forward to the general election.
“It has been tremendous to see active engagement in our Primary Election as voters across the county continue to head to the polls,” she said. “I look forward to a spirited campaign and earning the support of Maricopa County voters as we approach the General Election in November.”
Adel has made numerous changes, including creating a program to review potential wrongful convictions and dismissing high-profile prosecutor Juan Martinez following a pattern of unprofessional behavior. He is now disbarred.
Adel previously provided legal consulting services for nonprofits and small businesses. She worked for the Maricopa County Bar Association, Arizona Department of Child Safety and Arizona Department of Transportation. Adel also formerly worked in the office as a deputy county attorney.
Gunnigle is the only Democrat that has prosecutorial experience. She was a prosecutor in Elkhart County, Indiana, and in Cook County, Illinois.
While the polls were still open on Tuesday, her campaign manager said her team was encouraged by the turnout of voters and that they feel confident voters will choose Gunnigle.
“People are ready for change and criminal justice reform in our community,” Tom Williams, Gunnigle’s campaign manager, said. “We look forward to working with Democrats up and down the ballot to finally end the legacy of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and to create a more just Arizona.”
Gunnigle grew up in the Phoenix area and runs her own law office that focuses on birth law and advocating for individualized education programs for students. She unsuccessfully ran for the state Legislature in 2018.
Knight has experience as a public defender and working for private law firms. Before the Democrat became a public defender, he practiced in areas that include civil rights, commercial, professional liability, and white-collar crime.
Knight told The Republic on Tuesday that he is grateful.
“I am confident and looking forward to delivering our message to the electorate at large,” he said before early results were announced.
Knight went to high school in Georgia and graduated from Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. In law school, he interned at the Tempe Prosecutor’s Office, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
McWhirter is the only Democrat with experience handling cases involving the death penalty. He is a former federal and Maricopa County public defender.
On Tuesday, McWhirter said he has worked to earn the faith of voters in Maricopa County for the past year with his campaign.
“This race is about more than just winning tonight — it is about keeping our county safe from crime, protecting victim and taxpayers’ rights, and charting a new course of real criminal justice reform,” McWhirter said.
He helped write the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice’s bar charge that led to Martinez receiving a reprimand for ethical misconduct in three capital murder cases.
McWhirter also has worked in El Salvador to help reform the country’s justice system.