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Candidate for Maricopa County's top prosecutor says she won't enforce an abortion ban

Democrat Julie Gunnigle is making 2nd run for county attorney after losing to Allister Adel in 2020.

PHOENIX — The likely Democratic nominee to lead one of the largest prosecutorial offices in the country says she wouldn't enforce a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed abortion.

"Your county attorney should always be working in the interests of justice and prioritizing those cases that do justice for our county and our residents," Julie Gunnigle, a candidate for Maricopa County attorney, said in an interview on this weekend's "Sunday Square Off."

"That means not prosecuting people for their health care decisions, including abortion."

Gunnigle, who is making her second run for county attorney in two years, added that she also wouldn't enforce a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Court Ruling Expected By Summer

The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing a Mississippi case that presents the most direct challenge in decades to the court's landmark Roe vs Wade decision that affirmed a woman's right to an abortion.

The court is expected to hand down its opinion by the end of June, in the midst of campaigning for the November elections. 

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has a bill mirroring the Mississippi law - an abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy - on his desk awaiting his signature. 

Ducey has called on the court to overturn Roe vs Wade.

Also on this weekend's "Square Off":

The Arizona Agenda's Rachel Leingang and Hank Stephenson explain how the state Capitol really works: Why bills viewed as unconstitutional can still make it to the governor's desk and become law.

Election Called After Adel Quit

The special election for county attorney was called last week, after the abrupt resignation of Republican Allister Adel. The winner will fill the remaining two years of Adel's term, through November 2024.

Adel's personal and professional crises over the last two years have left the county attorney's office, by many accounts,  demoralized, understaffed and overwhelmed. 

Adel defeated Gunnigle by less than two percentage points in their 2020 race.

Mad Dash to Qualify

Adel's resignation triggered a mad dash to qualify for the ballot.

Gunnigle has already filed enough petition signatures to qualify for the August primary ballot. The deadline to file signatures is just eight days away on April 4. 

Gunnigle, a former prosecutor in Illinois and Indiana, is a progressive Democrat. The Democratic Party is helping to clear the field for Gunnigle.

She is legal director for the Poor People's Campaign in Arizona, part of a national organization working for a "moral revival" reflecting the values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

5 Republicans Seeking Office

Six other candidates have filed statements of interest to run for Maricopa County attorney. Five are Republicans:

  • Anni Foster, Gov. Doug Ducey's top lawyer.
  • Gina Godbehere, a Goodyear city prosecutor who worked in the Maricopa County attorney's office.
  • Rachel Mitchell, a division chief in the county attorney's office who was one of five top deputies to call for Adel's resignation last February.
  • Stephen Walker, a Chandler attorney.
  • Austin Woods, an attorney and son of former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods. 

Libertarian Michael Kielsky rounds out the field.

The Maricopa County Board is expected to appoint an interim county attorney. Under the law, the appointee must be from the same party as Republican Adel. 

A spokesman said the board hadn't discussed the appointment process.

Adel's chief deputy, Ken Vick, is now acting county attorney.

"Sunday Square Off" airs at 8 a.m. Sundays on 12 News, after NBC's "Meet the Press," with Chuck Todd.

Sunday Square Off

Watch previous interviews and segments of Sunday Square Off on our 12 News YouTube channel. Be sure to subscribe to receive updates on new uploads!

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