KING COUNTY, Wash. — Two candidates are facing off in the November election to replace outgoing King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.
Satterberg announced his retirement earlier this year. Both candidates running for the prosecuting attorney position cite experience with the Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is responsible for prosecuting all felonies in King County and all misdemeanors in unincorporated areas of King County. The office also represents the state and the county in district, superior, appeals, state and federal courts.
Both candidates sat down with KING 5 on Oct. 25.
Candidate Leesa Manion spent 27 years as a deputy prosecutor and the last 15 years as the prosecutor's chief of staff.
Candidate Jim Ferrell, the current Federal Way mayor, was a former senior deputy prosecutor with the office, with a total of 19 years of experience as a prosecutor.
Manion said as King County prosecutor she would aim to reduce property crime and protect victims and the vulnerable. She cited her expertise and experience with building and implementing effective crime-reduction strategies, juvenile justice reform and survivor support to KCPAO. As chief of staff Manion supervises a staff of 600 people.
Manion has also helped develop criminal justice policies and led teams of prosecutors as well as helped to lead efforts increasing support for victims of domestic violence and assault and established models for alternative sentencing.
"The main message of my campaign is public safety,” Manion said.
Manion oversees an $80 million budget, she said.
"I am the only candidate who has worked with all 100% of our office, all 600 of our employees, all four of our divisions, both of our labor unions,” said Manion.
Ferrell said he is running for King County prosecutor to "return justice and accountability" to the office. He cited his experience being the mayor of Federal Way, which has 103,000 residents, and managing a staff of nearly 600 and a budget of $103 million.
Ferrell said as an award-winning senior deputy prosecutor in King County he tried handled thousands of cases and tried hundreds of jury trials. Ferrell said he would utilize diversion programs to rehabilitate those who commit crime and "return people to healthy productive lives."
"The number one difference is that I'm the only candidate with trial experience. I am the only candidate who has ever had a caseload, tried a criminal case,” Ferrell said.
The top job comes with the responsibility of dealing with 4,500 unresolved felony cases that piled up during the pandemic when courtrooms shutdown.
"You've got to expand the capacity. That means probably on a temporary basis, bring in pro tem judges and retired judges and to expand the ability,” said Ferrell who added that he would triage cases and make homicides, violent crimes, and sexual assaults top priorities.
Manion said she successfully secured $14 million to tackle court backlogs. Manion added that some of that money was used to hire new employees to help resolve cases.
"I suspect that we will reduce it to pre-pandemic levels in less than two years,” Manion said.
Ferrell said, "I think two years is way too long."
Ferrell and Manion also differ when it comes to Restorative Community Pathways, a juvenile diversion program.
"All they have to do add a case number and a judicial component. Make sure that we understand, you know, the law enforcement in the in the city to understand what is the program, did the person show up,” Ferrell said.
"The only way you get a case number and judicial oversight is if you are filing charges. So that's not diversion. That's called prosecution,” said Manion.
The election comes at a time when some crimes are trending higher in King County. So far the county is on track to pass the number of shots fired incidents that occurred in 2021. In 2021, there were 460 reported victims. Eighty-eight people were shot and killed, and 372 were injured. In 2022, there have been 424 shooting victims as of July. Twenty of those were fatal.