Rachel Mitchell to serve as Maricopa County Attorney after Adel’s exit

Anni Foster and Gina Godbehere were also in the running, but the board ultimately chose Mitchell.
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 10:05 AM MST|Updated: Apr. 20, 2022 at 11:54 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -- The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has unanimously appointed Rachel Mitchell as the county attorney. She’s a prosecutor with 30 years of experience and it gives the longtime prosecutor incumbent status and a leg up in August’s GOP primary. She’s also one of the five division chiefs who called on former county attorney Allister Adel to step down after her office dropped around 180 misdemeanor criminal cases because charges weren’t filed on time.

Mitchell gained national attention in 2018 when she was named by U.S. Senate Republicans to question a woman during the confirmation hearing for now-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The woman accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

More allegations came about that Adel was drinking on the job. Mitchell and other top prosecutors questioned Adel’s sobriety and decisions after returning from treatment for alcohol abuse and anxiety in a letter sent to county leaders and the Arizona State Bar. At the time, Adel denied the allegations and said she had no plans to resign, but then announced her resignation last month.

It was a long, hard-fought battle

The board considered the three Republicans running for office because state law requires an appointment must come from the same party as the previous office holder. The board interviewed all three Republican candidates on Monday and had them answer three questions in writing about how they would do the job, including whether they believe the Republican-dominated board made a mistake when the board certified the 2020 election results. Anni Foster, Gov. Doug Ducey’s top lawyer, and Goodyear city prosecutor Gina Godbehere were also in the running, but the board ultimately chose Mitchell.

It’s not the first time Michell is in the seat, either. She ran the office on an interim basis when former Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery left for the Arizona Supreme Court. Over her decades working at MCAO, Mitchell was a well-known sex crimes prosecutor. Mitchell will likely face questions over the 180 criminal cases the office dropped because they weren’t filed on time.

Reaction pours in

Mitchell said the board did the right thing. “As a career prosecutor, I deal in evidence, truth, and facts. In the various ballot reviews, recounts, and completed and interim reports concerning the election, every outcome shows that Maricopa County administered a fair election with no evidence of tampering or fraud,” Mitchell wrote in her response. The sole Democratic candidate is Julie Gunnigle, who also sought the office in 2020.

“I really appreciate that these three candidates spoke out publicly and said the board did not err in certifying the 2020 election,” board Chairman Bill Gates told reporters after introducing Mitchell.

The ACLU of Arizona responded to the appointment with disapproval, saying that the board “ignored community demands to make the appointment process transparent and refrained from appointing a candidate who is seeking office in the forthcoming election.”

The other Republican candidates who were being considered for appointment, Foster and Godbehere, reacted to Mitchell’s confirmation on social media Wednesday morning.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) desperately needs a leader who will clean up the corruption and misconduct plaguing the office, not someone who will be busy campaigning in the upcoming election,” said ACLU of Arizona Smart Justice campaign strategist, K.M. Bell. “Voters must be allowed to decide who the next Maricopa County Attorney will be – without the huge advantage that incumbency provides.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.