Maricopa County Attorney candidates debate for first time before Election Day

Both candidates began the debate with their opening statements, but it quickly became tense when police reform was brought up.
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 7:58 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- For the first and only time before Election Day, both candidates running to be the next top attorney in Maricopa County were on stage together Thursday. Republican interim Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell is running to keep her current job. Democrat Julie Gunnigle is trying to take it from her.

Both candidates began the debate with their opening statement, explaining why you should vote for them. However, the conversation became tense when police reform was brought up. Gunnigle said the current system is “wasting money, throwing away lives and doesn’t make us any safer.”

Gunnigle said there needs to be reform to stop problems at the root. However, her opponent Mitchell interpreted that in another way.

“What she’s talking about is taking money from police, and she’s tweeted she wants to take $25 million from the police budget,” Mitchell said. The moderator then asked Gunnigle if she supports “defunding the police.” Gunnigle responded by saying, “No, that’s not my platform. That’s something I’ve never tweeted.”

We found this 2020 tweet from Gunnigle. While Gunnigle didn’t use the term ‘defunding the police,’ she wanted the city council to “reallocate $25M from the Phoenix Police budget to mental health and youth programs.”

We found this 2020 tweet from Gunnigle.
We found this 2020 tweet from Gunnigle.(Arizona's Family)

The other big topic was abortion. With the Supreme Court overruling Roe v. Wade, some abortions could be illegal moving forward in the state. However, Gunnigle says she won’t prosecute women no matter the law in Arizona.

“It’s not about whether I agree, prosecutors pursue questions if they are in the best interest of justice. Not now not ever it will never be in the interest of justice to invade Arizonans bedroom and private lives to pursue these kinds of cases,” she said.

Mitchell says it’s irresponsible to speak in absolutes right now. Instead, she would have to take it case by case. “I’m going to look at every case. It does not mean I’m going to announce in advance I’m not going to follow a law because I don’t like it. That’s not my role,” she said.

To watch the full debate that aired on PBS, click/tap here.