She served as Maricopa County attorney for 900 days, the first woman to hold the office.
But Allister Adel was more than that. Dead too soon at age 45, Adel was many things that rarely mattered during her time in the public eye. She was a daughter, a wife, and a mother of two grade school boys. She loved her dogs and the Rotary Club. She was a loyal friend to those who knew her.
Adel also dwelled in the world of politics, though. For many people, especially those who opposed her brand of conservative Republican politics, that meant she was worse than human detritus. Adel was a villain, a punching bag, a piñata. The way politics is practiced today, it is never enough simply to disagree with those we oppose. Instead, we must smash them to bits.
This is true of both sides, red and blue, Dem and GOP. Nowadays, to talk politics is mostly to spew hate. Even if it means attacking a person at their most vulnerable points and grinding them to dust.
With Adel, who I counted as a friend, it is no secret that she struggled with alcohol. I am not here to suggest that the media, which covered her foibles in office with urgency, was wrong to do so. To hold public office is to be in the spotlight, and rightly so. Adel was accused of too many absences, of failing to maintain her sobriety, of not being the top prosecutor our county needs. She denied the charges, but still they kept coming. Until, on March 21, she stepped down.
Five weeks later she was dead, having suffered what her family described as “health complications.”
Across the cesspool that is social media wafted a sense of glee from noxious bastards and bots.
From Twitter moron @Peterson_JFrank: “I believe in karma big time… This bitch got what she deserved… I will piss on her grave if I ever have the chance…”
From @Shannonagain2: “AA had no problem *legally* destroying lives. no guilt, here. She was a menace. Corrupt. As are most attorneys. AND POLITICIANS.”
From @SRunningcloud: “She was a wicked woman. Her acts of racism reached the level of genocide. She’s burning in Hell. No doubt. That’s how much bad karma she has to work out. Eternal fire of hell is what Allister Adel has earned from her time on Earth.”
This vomitus spew was not reserved merely for Adel’s death. As she struggled publicly through rehab and with the responsibilities of her position, her every move drew not just stories but hot takes, name-calling and a sense of joy that peaked with each sign of struggle.
This is our mentality now: It isn’t enough to campaign for those we support; we must loathe the opponent, demonize them, root for a failure of their policies and — even better — their heart.
Ironically, I first met Adel a decade ago, when we both spent time helping Mesa businessperson Wil Cardon run for the U.S. Senate against Jeff Flake. Wil, a sensitive soul, spent millions of his own wealth on that campaign, only to get trounced when outside interests spent many more millions on attack ads.
Ridiculed for losing, Wil wandered through a campaign for secretary of state two years later. Three years later, his depression finally got to him. Wil died by suicide at age 45.
As politics has turned to blood sport, we seem to have forgotten that the names of the ballot are actual human beings. They love, hurt, bleed, struggle, die.
I will miss Allister as I have missed Wil. I will feel forevermore like the price they paid to serve us was extracted from them in the days they never got to live.
David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org