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Dem Seeking Top Prosecutor Position Tries to Deny Her Support for Defunding Police

A Democrat seeking the top county attorney job in Arizona’s biggest county denied during a debate last month that she ever advocated defunding the police. But a Twitter post published by Maricopa County Attorney candidate Julie Gunnigle in the summer of 2020 showed she did just that. Maricopa County encompasses the Phoenix metropolitan area and, with a population of over 4.4 million, is the fourth most populace county in the United States. The county attorney’s office employs more than 1,000 people and is the third largest prosecutorial agency in the nation, handling all felony and misdemeanor filings in the county, according to its website. So the Maricopa County attorney is not a sleepy position where a liberal prosecutor can opine about “reforms” and adopt soft-on-crime policies and not have a major impact on the safety of the residents. It’s the big leagues. The Washington Free Beacon reported last month that Gunnigle received contributions from the Way to Lead PAC, which is backed heavily by George Soros’s Democracy PAC. Soros also supported now-former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who was recalled last summer, and current Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, who has been fighting off a recall election himself due to his soft-on-crime policies. Recall supporters are still fighting to get the issue before the voters. With that as a backdrop, at the Sept. 15 county attorney debate, moderator Ted Simons with Arizona PBS asked Gunnigle, “How would you respond to someone who says, ‘Look at San Francisco, look at Los Angeles. We don’t want that?'” “We waste money in a system that throws away lives and doesn’t make us any safer,” Gunnigle replied. “And until we’re really willing to have a true discussion about root causes, we’re not going to end up with a system that helps public safety at all. All we’re going to do is repeat a cycle of recidivism that costs the taxpayers money,” she added. Acting Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, the Republican candidate for the position, responded when Gunnigle uses the words “root causes,” that is code for not holding people accountable for their crimes. “She can’t say the quiet part out loud. The quiet part out loud is, she’s exactly the same” as the California DAs mentioned above, Mitchell stated. “San Francisco voted out somebody who was just like Julie Gunnigle because it was rampant crime. It was closing businesses. People didn’t want to go there on vacation anymore,” she continued. “So when she’s saying ‘root cause,’ what she’s talking about is taking money from the police, and she’s tweeted that she wants to take $25 million out of the police budget,” Mitchell said. While unsuccessfully running to be Maricopa County attorney in 2020, Gunnigle tweeted, “The Phoenix City Council is finalizing its 2020-2021 budget. Join me in requesting they reallocate $25 million from the Phoenix Police budget to mental health and youth programs.” Mitchell argued that would be, in effect, calling for defunding police. “Let me tell you what happens when you do that. That’s not going to take patrol officers off the streets, that’s going to take sex crimes detectives out of the advocacy centers because I’ve seen it and put them on the streets. So we’re going to have less people investigating crimes against children and women,” Mitchell said. Simons asked Gunnigle directly, “Do you support defunding the police?” “No. That is not part of my platform,” she responded. “That’s nothing I’ve ever tweeted. And you know what? The county attorney knows that. The county attorney has been in that office for 30 years and knows that during those 30 years, the office has never once passed a police budget. It has never once advocated for a police budget.” “The county attorney has nothing to do with funding police and, frankly, I am so offended that she would characterize support of mental health programs — that mental health first responders can respond to mental health cases in our community — as something dealing with police funding,” Gunnigle said. Did you catch how quickly Gunnigle changed the subject to say she would not be able to defund the police as county attorney? That wasn’t the question. It was, “Do support it?” Her response said a lot about how she views the police, with whom she would have to work closely as the county’s top prosecutor. Mitchell did not let her get away with it. “Where is that going to come from? That’s going to come from taking money away from the police,” she said. Mitchell went on to highlight that Gunnigle’s campaign manager, Bruce Franks Jr., also wants to defund the police and abolish prisons. According to a Sept. 12 Fox News report, Franks, a former Missouri state representative, posted on Facebook in April 2021, “Stop trying to reform the f****** police! Defund and Abolish!” “When we say DEFUND the police, f*** your rebuttals on why it doesn’t make sense,” he wrote on Facebook that same month. Mitchell also highlighted Franks’ radical views during a September debate on KPNX-TV. During the PBS debate, Simons asked Gunnigle to respond Mitchell’s characterization of Franks. “Hi, I’m Julie Gunnigle,” Gunnigle said to Mitchell. “You’re running against me and not my staff. My platform for reform is evidence-based and supported by both conservative and liberal thinkers, and it will save us money while keeping us safer.” Mitchell responded to that in her closing statement: “You are who you keep company with,” she said. The Western Journal reached out to the Dunnigle campaign regarding her 2020 tweet and received a kind of off-the-wall emailed response from spokeswoman Dawn Penich-Thacker, who also supports defunding the police, according to Fox News. “Let me put it this way. If you hoped your Granny was going to give you $25 for the holidays this year, a $5 raise over last year, and a gradual raise over every other year, but you didn’t know for sure, yet lo and behold, Granny gave you the same $20 and handmade sweater she gave you last year, would you cry that you have been ‘defunded’ or would you acknowledge you were kept whole/sustained at your existing levels by someone being responsible on a budget?” Penich-Thacker asked. She added, “So no, Julie Gunnigle has never uttered the word ‘defund’ in this context and you can see by a simple website visit that it is NOT part of her evidence-based platform for real Justice and accountability. She is a vocal advocate of using data and fact to innovate and adjust criminal and legal policy to actually serve taxpayers for the first time in decades.” The Phoenix police budget was $721 million in 2019, which was increased to $745 million in 2020. Maricopa County is the fastest-growing county in the nation and has been for years, so increasing Phoenix’s police budget year-over-year would make sense. Gunnigle looks like another in a line of liberal prosecutors who have helped facilitate the current crime wave in the U.S. If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, acts like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Maricopa County does not need a Boudin or Gascón-type top prosecutor who would allow Phoenix to turn into another San Francisco or LA. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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