With its local Democratic incumbents running unopposed at the state level, the biggest political race facing Capitol Hill voters in the November 8th election just might be the one major battle where an incumbent is stepping aside.
Two Democrats are on the ballot to take over for the retiring Dan Satterberg as King County Prosecutor but they are taking much different approaches to how they would handle the job of continuing to shift the prosecutor’s office to both incorporate new strategies for address public safety and rehabilitation while also pursuing justice.
Satterberg’s chief of staff Leesa Manion promises to continue her boss’s efforts to reform the office and would be the first woman and person of color to serve as King County Prosecutor while Federal Way mayor Jim Ferrell says he would bring a throwback, “tough on crime” approach to the office.
For the last 15 years, Manion has worked as the chief of staff for the prosecutor. She first entered the office in 1995 as a Rule 9 Legal Intern after graduating from Seattle University School of Law. Manion was born in Seoul, South Korea to a Korean mother and white father.
Responding to criticism surrounding how Satterberg’s office handled crime and repeat offenders, few long-term solutions and a “revolving-door” of offenses, Manion told CHS she sess a multi-faceted approach as the solution. This looks like helping people who are stealing to feed themselves or who are struggling with a mental illness or addiction and also accumulating data to crack down on organized crime and systematic attacks on businesses, Manion says. “I think that the people in King County are really compassionate, and I believe that the compassion has been tested,” Manion said.
Ferrell says he wants to pull back on diversion. He says programs should be limited to misdemeanors and low level felonies, with the exceptions of crimes such as residential burglaries, second-degree robberies, felony harassment and others and has also highlighted changes he wants to make to the Restorative Community Pathways (RCP) program, a diversion program which puts a small number first-time criminal offenders in front of a nonprofit community panel instead of a court.
Ferrell wants to remove some of the crimes that are eligible for the program as well as to ensure a check-in with a judicial officer in the beginning to make sure that nothing is lost in the system. “I think RCP is eminently fixable, I could fix it in a day,” Ferrell told CHS. “There needs to be an accountability element, there needs to be essentially a check in and check back to make sure that whatever was promised to be done, has been done.”
Voters will need to choose between the approaches and decide if they side with Manion’s pledge of continuity and continued effort to pursue new methods that will truly work to reduce crime and end the cycle of repeat offenders — or join Ferrell and give up on some of the reforms of the past decade. “I don’t think that we’re doing people favors by showing so much mercy that we’re figuratively looking the other way,” Ferrell told CHS earlier this year. “When people do hit incarceration they’ve got to be in a situation in which they learn from this.”