Arizona Democrats Pro-Death Penalty? Local Leaders Take a Surprising Stance

When it comes to partisan politics, one dynamic has stayed constant for a long time: Democrats leaning towards compassion and Republicans leaning towards consequences when it comes to the legal process and crime. That dynamic has nearly always stayed in place when it comes to one of the more controversial topics of our time: the death penalty. Until now, that is

In a surprising about-face, Attorney General Kris Mayes recently informed County Attorney Rachel Mitchell that her office intends to pursue the death penalty as a viable punishment starting in 2025. Just two years ago, her and Governor Katie Hobbs stopped the usage of the practice and started a review of the process.

After the stance change, perhaps the most notable aspect of the back and forths between the County Attorney’s office and the Attorney General’s office is the clear enmity between the two offices. Correspondence is littered with jabs and passive-aggression, an obvious stench of mutual disdain. Clearly, the fact that they are now ideological aligned on one issue is not enough to overcome several years of battles.

But the overwhelmingly notable aspect is the about-face on an issue that Democrats have typically eschewed. Only ten states currently have the death penalty in statute and have performed an execution in the last ten years, and all of them are in Republican strongholds and geographically in the “deep south”, from Texas to Florida.

Of course, the right to use the death penalty does not necessarily mean that it will be used plentifully. Since its inception in 1976, it has only been used 40 times as punishment, nearly one time per year. A total of 112 people are currently on death row, and one would assume that the vast majority will die of natural causes in prison as opposed to being put to death. There certainly are ample opportunities to use this form of punishment, but if Republican-led administrations used it so infrequently, it is probably safe to say that that won’t ramp up in a very material manner under Mayes and Hobbs.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway is what life in a truly swing state will be going forward. Democrats will need to capitulate on some issues so as to not seem too liberal, and having a tougher on crime stance appears to be an issue that Mayes and Hobbs are willing to negotiate on. While the application of the death penalty will likely be rare, sometimes the appearance of moving towards the center is more impactful than the actual action itself, which seems to be the case here.