An Arizona left-wing attorney candidate attempting to lead the nation’s third-largest prosecutor’s office and several of her campaign staffers have expressed support for defunding police, according to a Fox News Digital review of videos and social media posts.
Julie Gunnigle, the Democratic nominee for Maricopa County attorney, is vying to take the reins of the prosecutor’s office while running on a progressive platform that includes prosecuting police officers through an independent unit in use of force cases, her campaign website states.
Gunnigle’s pledge targeting law enforcement follows her past rhetoric against officers and their unions. Gunnigle has expressed support for stripping and reallocating their funds, including redirecting at least $25 million away from the Phoenix Police Department.
When asked about her stance on the movement two years ago, Gunnigle said that “Arizonans don’t want militarized policing” and added she has been a proponent of ’25 Saves Phoenix Lives,’ a strategic reinvestment plan that would strip $25 million away from the police force.
“You know, I am listening to this moment and standing with people who are protesting, and I think the voice here is loud and clear: Arizonans don’t want militarized policing .. So, I have been a proponent of the ’25 Saves Phoenix Lives,’ which is a strategic reinvestment of $25 million dollars back into youth and mental health programs,” she said in a March 2020 interview with The Appeal posted on Facebook.
Months later, Gunnigle fielded a question on whether she backed cutting police budgets at the city council level or if she would lend her support to such calls. In response, she doubled down on supporting the initiative to siphon local law enforcement resources.
Gunnigle has also said it is “reprehensible” to “take endorsements and to take money” from police unions and officers. The Arizona Democrat, meanwhile, wants to defund and abolish school resource officers.
“We have over incarcerated our youth as well as our adults, but we’ve also done it in a particularly poor way with the inclusion of SROs at our schools,” she said in a June 2020 interview.
“So, one of the things that I’ve been focusing on is: What should the role of law enforcement be inside our schools? And I am a proponent of, first, eliminating SROs and diverting that money back to school counselors. So many of our students go to schools without counselors or nurses, and those should be the first-line responders when it comes to solving student problems.”
Gunnigle has also surrounded herself with anti-cop campaign staffers in her quest to become Maricopa County’s top prosecutor, videos and social media posts show.
Bruce Franks Jr., her campaign manager, supports abolishing police and has said “cops conspire to f— up the lives of their constituents,” according to his posts.
“Stop trying to reform the f—— police! Defund and Abolish!” he posted on Facebook in April 2021. “When we say DEFUND the police, f— your rebuttals on why it doesn’t make sense,” he wrote on Facebook that same month.
Franks, a Democratic Missouri state representative from 2016 to 2019, previously recorded rap videos about shooting and stabbing people to death, the Daily Caller reported in 2017.
“I off them if they snitch, I put a shotty to their body, send them straight to the reverend! I put them in a body cast, put them in a body bag, tie them to the bag of the Chrysler then it’s body drag!” Franks freestyle raps in one of the videos. “A n—a speak my name, he will get slain!”
Franks has collected more than $28,000 from Gunnigle’s campaign, Maricopa County campaign finance records show. Gunnigle’s committee paid $4,285 to Blaque Printing, which Franks incorporated in 2021, according to state business filings. Franks directly pocketed $24,000 for consulting services, the local records show.
Dawn Penich-Thacker, Gunnigle’s campaign spokesperson, has also backed the defund movement and called Arizona police officers a “national embarrassment” and “a menace.”
“Now– immediately, in your next vote–we need culture change. We need job changes. We need massive budget refusals and re-allocations to social services, mental health care, and community services that we actually need,” Penich-Thacker said during a June 2022 Tempe City Council meeting.
“We need you to hold the department accountable, to show us your residents that you actually care that our police force is a national embarrassment for their failures and abuses and a menace to too many in our community,” she said.
During the meeting, Penich-Thacker said she was “horrified” by the Tempe Police Department, accusing them of having a culture of “misconduct, negligence, abuse of power and murder,” in reference to the 2019 officer-involved shooting of 14-year-old Antonio Acre, who was killed while running away and holding a replica 1911 airsoft gun, Arizona Central reported.
According to her LinkedIn profile, she has served as an advisory board member of the civilian review board overseeing the Tempe Police Department. Gunnigle’s campaign has given $4,600 to Penich-Thacker for consulting services.
“Julie Gunnigle does not have a platform of defunding the police and notes that the County Attorney has no role in law enforcement budget allocation in Maricopa County,” Penich-Thatcher told Fox News Digital.
“She supports the personal First Amendment rights of all Americans, including staff and volunteers,” Penich-Thatcher said in response to questions on their anti-police views.
Gunnigle’s campaign has also disbursed $6,000 in consulting payments to progressive activist and field staffer Sophia Carrillo Dahl. Like the others, she also supports defunding police and has called the Phoenix Police “trash,” according to tweets.
“Billions of dollars are spent on a yearly basis on policing while public education is not fully funded,” she wrote in July 2020. “Defunding the police isn’t abolishing the police but allocating those funds to services that our communities need especially our black and brown communities. #DefundThePolice”
Additionally, in July, Carrillo Dahl tweeted that police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be abolished.
Gunnigle is attempting her second shot at landing in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office after narrowly losing the 2020 election. During the 2020 race, her campaign paid $354,000 to the E Street Group, a consulting firm co-owned by Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s husband, Tim Mynett, records show.
Mynett expressed his unwavering support of Gunnigle following her defeat.
“[Julie Gunnigle] you ran an inspired campaign that you and all Arizonan’s can be proud of,” Mynett tweeted to her after the loss. “My heart breaks with these results but the courage, strength and class that you’ve shown is extraordinary. Count me among your supporters for life no matter what it is you decide to work on.”
Gunnigle is facing off against Republican acting Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell in this November’s special election.