With 16-year incumbent Steve Tucker not running for another term as Spokane County prosecutor, the office has opened up for a newcomer. Enter: Democratic candidate Breean Beggs and Republican Steve Haskell.
Haskell currently holds a deputy prosecutor job under Tucker, while Beggs is a private practice attorney who touts his trial and leadership experience.
Age? I am 51.
How long have you lived in Spokane County? I first came to Spokane County in 1981 and lived here until 1988, when I left to attend law school at University of Washington. I returned with my family in February of 2004.
Why did you decide to file for this office at this time? I co-founded the Smart Justice Campaign in Spokane to raise public awareness for reasonable criminal justice reforms that are proven to reduce crime at a lower cost. (See data at Washington State Institute for Public Policy at wsipp.wa.gov.) After working as a lawyer for 23 years representing crime victims and holding the government accountable to the Constitution, I was frustrated with the high cost of justice, an overcrowded jail, chronic repeat property offenders and the fact that the prosecutor’s office seemed more intent on processing crime than reducing it. I decided that by running for office on a Smart Justice platform, I could call attention to the scope of the problem and the realistic solutions that the city and county were willing to start implementing in the Blueprint for Reform.
Why should voters choose over your opponent? I am the only one who managed law offices and supervised lawyers, which is the primary job for the elected prosecutor. In my opponent’s 13 years as a lawyer, he has never been chosen to a leadership or management position. His legal experience is also limited to criminal law, which is insufficient for the chief legal officer for the entire county. I tried and won numerous criminal jury trials and appeals long before my opponent went to law school. But I have also handled land use, employment, civil defense, mental health, labor, family law and the other issues over which the elected prosecutor is responsible. I have also spent the majority of my 23 years as a lawyer directly representing crime victims.
What issues do you feel are most pertinent to the prosecutor’s office going into the next four years? The most important issue is to promptly implement the Blueprint for Reform, which will streamline the current system and focus on dramatically reducing the re-offense rate. Reducing chronic repeat property-crime offenders must continue to be addressed by the city and county. Law enforcement is starting to use more scientific approaches, including community policing. We needed to add community policing, which assigns individual prosecutors to areas of the county to work with law enforcement and community stakeholders. The prosecutor’s office must hold all government employees accountable to the law and ensure transparency for the community.
What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? People all across the county, including the city of Spokane, are frustrated with law-enforcement response to property crimes. I believe that some of the frustration is out of date, but the perception is that they either don’t respond or don’t respond quickly enough.
How long have you lived in Spokane County? Twenty-one years total including time at Fairchild.
Why did you decide to file for this office at this time? It is time for major changes both inside the office and in the services we provide to the public. Since I have been in the office for over 13 years, I have seen the things we do well and those that need improvement. I also see new areas in which there are public needs that are not yet met. I see the prosecuting attorney as, not only a prosecutor and legal adviser to other County officials, but also as an educator. I will be out in the community, speaking with citizens and other elected officials and the media with the goal of better informing the public and maintaining transparency in what we do. I have the training, skills and relevant experience to lead the way.
Why should voters choose you over your opponent? I am the only one of the two of us that is a practicing prosecuting attorney. I have over 13 years of direct experience in the criminal justice system. I have prosecuted all levels of crimes. I have prior elected experience, both on the Airway Heights City Council and the Cheney school board. I know the value of and expectations from a voter when they ask you to do the job. I have executive level education, training and experience as a retired United States Air Force lieutenant colonel and instructor pilot. My opponent has never been a prosecutor, never held elected office before, is an employment, civil rights and personal injury attorney who sues governments for big payouts that raise costs to taxpayers.
What issues do you feel are most pertinent to the prosecutor's office going into the next four years? The most important job of the prosecuting attorney is to protect the public. I will aggressively prosecute those who commit victim crimes. I will ensure victims are taken care of to the full extent of the law. I will work with the Legislature to pass changes in the law that make sense. Chronic property offenders will also be a top priority. They eat up a high percentage of local resources and cause our citizens and businesses to despair. In accomplishing these goals, I will use evidence-based proven sentencing alternatives whenever appropriate to maximize safety and lower costs.
What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? Despite the fact that lawyers often get wrapped up in what interests them, many people are wondering why the judges are letting the chronic offenders out of jail, why so many cases get plea-bargained and why, when convicted, offenders are released from prison so soon. I am the candidate that has the experience and knows best how to address these citizen concerns.