Alameda County has a wide-open field -- for the first time in recent memory -- to elect its next district attorney, with two current county prosecutors, one former prosecutor and one private civil rights attorney on the June 7 ballot.
Incumbent District Attorney Nancy O'Malley is retiring, but she opted to serve out the remainder of her current term in office rather than the process followed by many of her predecessors to step down midterm and allow an initial successor to be appointed by the Board of Supervisors, which many see as creating a distinct advantage for the candidate when the next election rolls around.
The ballot features two internal candidates from the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, current chief assistant district attorney Terry Wiley and deputy district attorney Jimmie Wilson; Oakland civil rights attorney Pamela Price, a progressive candidate who ran against O'Malley four years ago; and Seth Steward, a former San Francisco prosecutor who now works as chief-of-staff for Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb.
In order to win outright in June, one candidate would have to earn more votes than the other three combined; otherwise, the stage will be set for the top two finishers in the primary to square off in a runoff election this November.
The DA's office makes charging decisions after arrests, prosecutes criminal cases, investigates fatalities and other serious incidents involving law enforcement, and provides support to victims and witnesses of crimes, among its functions across Alameda County.
Price, a civil rights attorney in private practice, thinks her progressive campaign platform from the 2018 election continues to resonate with many voters.
"In 2018, many members of our community stood with me and embraced our platform for change. We are still seeking that change," Price told the Weekly. "While there have been forward steps in reforms at the state level, the Alameda County DA's office has been slow to embrace the change and, in some cases, has resisted reform. This is why I am running again."
Price promotes "Pamela's 10-Point Platform" in her primary campaign.
It outlines goals and strategies she would enact if elected in the areas of "restore public trust in our criminal justice system, reduce gun violence, implement fair justice measures, stop over-criminalizing youth, end the death penalty, protect immigrant communities, hold police accountable for misconduct, establish prosecutorial accountability, effective re-entry strategies, and invest in public health and social services."
"We will refocus the DA's office and restore public trust in the criminal justice system by increasing transparency and rooting out racial, gender and economic disparities," she told the Weekly. "I want to hire prosecutors who want to change lives and not ruin them. Public safety calls for compassionate justice for the whole community, including victims, families and those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law."
The other external candidate is Steward, who does have prosecutorial experience from his prior years working for the San Francisco District Attorney's Office. He currently works in Oakland city politics, and serves in the California Air National Guard.
"As a proven prosecutor, veteran, and public school teacher, it's essential that the District Attorney's Office policies keep families safe, build trust and restore fairness in the system," Steward told the Weekly.
"I'd also note that as a hate crimes prosecutor, I will fight to make sure that hate has no place in Alameda County. We must #StopAsianHate, fight racism and bias, and protect the rights of women, particularly reproductive freedoms," he added.
On his campaign website, Steward states his platform focuses on the areas of "be smarter on crime and follow the science, focus on violent crime, lead outside of the courtroom, prosecute officers who abuse their authority, reform youth justice, fight racism and bias, protect the rights of immigrants, expand victims' rights, expand access to alternative courts and diversion programs, end the death penalty, eliminate cash bail and create a resentencing unit."
"We need to be smarter on crime," he stated. "By understanding what we are doing we can eliminate bias, understand the effect of our policies on public safety and make sure we are accountable to the public."
Wiley, currently chief assistant district attorney, has worked for the Alameda County DA's Office since 1990, rising through the ranks and serving in many prosecuting units. He is also the director of the office's new Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Wiley, who did not respond to the Weekly's interview request, will focus on tackling crime "from every direction," according to his campaign website.
"Terry has taken on the toughest prosecutions and he knows that we can make progress on safety -- quickly -- by focusing on repeat and violent offenders. Just 2,000 offenders commit the majority of crimes in Alameda County. As DA, Terry will start by focusing on these offenders," his website states.
"But he won't stop there. He will make sure we focus on drug treatment, mental health, job training and excellent schools to keep kids out of the criminal justice system," the website adds.
His mindset in office will be driven by his belief that "the way we bring peace back to our streets is to make sure we have one system of justice for everyone. Not one for people of color and another for white people. Not one for the rich and one for the poor. One system -- fair to everyone and protecting everyone," according to his website.
The other internal candidate is Wilson, who joined the DA's office in 2004 after transitioning to a legal career later in adulthood after working years as a union plumber. His prosecutorial history includes a range of case types, including many in the homicide, gang and sexual assault felony categories.
"Prosecutors' daily decisions drive the culture of law enforcement and overwhelmingly impact the faith our community has in the criminal justice system," Wilson said on his campaign website. "I believe that all prosecutors, including and especially the elected district attorney, must have uncompromising ethical standards and steadfast devotion to the people we serve."
His campaign vision centers on the themes of "the right experience, targeting violent crime, building trust and transparency, community policing reform, empowering our community, give all victims a voice and community re-entry."
"The status quo is not keeping our communities safe," Wilson said on his website. "We need new leadership in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office that is willing to work with our community and law enforcement to tackle the crises we are facing -- a historic rise in public safety issues across the county, and a distrust in the ability of the criminal justice system to fairly and effectively solve them. I am the right person for the job."