Who Are The Front-Runners For Maricopa County Attorney?

By Steve Goldstein, Lauren Gilger
Published: Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 3:04pm
Updated: Thursday, September 19, 2019 - 3:19pm

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Bill Montgomery
Howard Fischer/Capital Media Services
Bill Montgomery

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Eight people have applied to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to be named the new county attorney — at least through the 2020 election. Each candidate intends to run for the office in next year's election, and Rachel Mitchell, now best known for her part in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings last year, plans to run for the job even if she isn't appointed to the position. So who's in the running and who seems most likely to succeed Maricopa County attorney turned state Supreme Court Justice Bill Montgomery? Joining us now to tell us more is Jim Small, editor of the Arizona Mirror. Jim, good morning.

JIM SMALL: Good morning.

GOLDSTEIN: So, let's talk about some of the bigger names on the list. Any surprises there at all, in terms of the interest level? Were there other names you expected to see that you didn't?

SMALL: No, these were names, most of the names that are on here are names that we'd heard that were interested before, some of whom had popped up in media reports, others who, once it became clear in the immediate aftermath of Bill Montgomery being appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court, people started really throwing their hats in the ring. There are obviously some names I think that were on here that we didn't fully, you didn't know if they were going to apply, but for the most part, I think everyone who expected to apply for the post did.

LAUREN GILGER: Any standouts to you, Jim, and, as you look at this list, who do you think is a top contender?

SMALL: I mean obviously Rachel Mitchell has the job right now as the interim county attorney, so I think that she obviously is in the mix. I've heard a lot of people have certainly, within Republican circles, have been bullish on Lacy Cooper, who is at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix. And obviously there was a lot of speculation and discussion about Rodney Glassman throwing his hat into the ring on this. Rodney Glassman ran for the Corporation Commission a couple of years ago and lost. And before that he was — he is a Republican now, but before that, he was a Democrat. He was on the Tucson City Council as a Democrat, ran for the chairmanship of the state Democratic Party a couple of times a number of years ago, and so he is someone who, within the political world, people are trying to figure out kind of what he's up to, and it looks to a lot of people like this is someone who's out there angling, casting about for a role and for a job. For an elected position.

GOLDSTEIN: Jim, this is bound to get pretty intense as we go along, once the choice is made, because we certainly expect to see a number of Democrats going for this open position. How much do you think, based on the political knowledge you have and knowledge of this community, how big a difference do you think it's going to make based on who is chosen for this? Rachel Mitchell certainly has a higher profile now but has never been in the political realm. And we heard that was something that kind of stunned Bill Montgomery, the first time he actually ran for the office, was like, "wow this is actually a political office in addition to managing things." How do you think that might play into, not necessarily who gets chosen, but the next step they're able to take?

SMALL: Well, it is, and certainly you've got a couple of people on here who have run political campaigns, Rodney Glassman being one. Chris DeRose, who had been appointed clerk of the court a couple of years ago for a for a brief period, he's run political campaigns. John Kaites, who's a prominent lobbyist and lawyer, used to be a state legislator and, at one time, ran for attorney general. And these people, who at least have some experience in the political world, not all of it successful, and certainly not in recent times, having any successes. But you're right, this is a job that is inherently political. You have to, in order to keep the job, you have to run for office, you have to go on the campaign trail, and a lot of the decisions you make are going to be scrutinized through that lens of politics. And so, it is definitely a thing to be concerned about. Obviously everyone who's on here says that they're going to run for the office again. In terms of how the appointment could potentially put this race in play for Democrats in 2020, my guess is if the status quo was maintained, Republicans are going to come into that race with a pretty heavy advantage. I think the opening for Democrats is if someone gets appointed to that job and it comes out of the Republican field, who seems to be unqualified for it. Looking at the resumes of the folks who've applied for it, there doesn't really seem to be anybody who directly smacks of someone who is totally incapable and unqualified for being county attorney.

GOLDSTEIN: OK, that is Jim Small, editor of the Arizona Mirror. Jim, always good to catch up. Thanks.

SMALL: Thanks.

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