This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Voters face what could be a tough decision when they pick their prosecutor in November.
The race pits incumbent-by-appointment Mark Lindquist against Bertha Fitzer, who resigned her deputy prosecutor position in August to run against her boss. Both are gifted lawyers who bring very different résumés to the race.
The smart and talented Lindquist knows how to get what he wants, whether that be the office he now holds or the successful literary career he has pursued as a sideline. He’s been endorsed by former governors Booth Gardner and Dan Evans; former prosecutors John Ladenburg and Gerry Horne; U.S. Reps. Norm Dicks and Adam Smith – and what seems to be every other luminary in the political firmament.
Lindquist, our choice in the race, is certainly qualified for the job. He’s led the prosecutor’s drug unit and played a lead role in the county’s offensive against meth labs. He’s handled major felony trials, and he served as chief criminal deputy before Horne resigned and nominated Lindquist to take his place last year.
The prosecutor holds an elected position, which means he or she must – to some extent – be a political animal. A strong prosecutor not only must win over juries and effectively lead his deputies; he or she must win public support for the criminal justice system and maintain healthy ties with judges, county officials and the legal community.
But we do have questions about Lindquist that lie in the opposite direction; that his instincts may be too political.
County prosecutors in this state exercise immense discretion in their decisions to charge or not charge suspects, to accept plea bargains or torque defendants. Only members of the Washington Supreme Court, perhaps, wield more raw legal power.
That power must be exercised with extreme deference to the impartial demands of justice. We have no fundamental concerns about Lindquist’s ethics, or we would not be endorsing him, but we remain curious about how much importance he places on the attention of cameras and adulatory publicity.
There’s been more than a bit of showmanship, for example, in his flamboyant pursuit of novel conspiracy charges against the Hilltop Crips. Yes, an elected prosecutor must stay on the public’s good side, but we would like to see more evidence that Lindquist is willing to jeopardize votes with hard and unpopular prosecuting decisions. Maybe that comes after the election.
Regardless, Fitzer is not his match in this race. She hasn’t been able to garner the political, financial or public support necessary to mount a serious challenge. That doesn’t bode well for someone seeking a highly public administrative office in which success depends heavily on people skills.
Fitzer is a formidably intelligent attorney with a Harvard law degree and a stellar list of credentials. But it takes more than brains to be a successful elected prosecutor.
Read earlier endorsement editorials at www.thenewstribune.com/endorsements.