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COUNTY ELECTION | Candidates criticize incumbent prosecutor at forum
BREMERTON — Voters had a chance to get an up-close look at all four candidates for Kitsap County prosecutor at this week’s Eggs and Issues event.
Russ Hauge, a Democrat who has held the office for 20 years, faces a fellow Democrat, a Republican and an Independent in the August 5 primary.
Hauge defended his record and urged voters to re-elect him to another term.
“I built this organization,” he said. “We have 100 individuals protecting your safety. Any one of them could make more money in the private sector but they choose to work for the county because they want to serve you.”
Hauge said he has spent 20 years developing strong partnerships with local law enforcement agencies, his office is a leader in domestic violence prosecutions and they focus on treating drug users rather than repeatedly arresting them.
He also touted his office’s recent move to take on human trafficking and the exploitation of girls and women.
“Not every decision I’ve made has been popular, but I stand by them,” Hauge said.
Hauge’s three opponents, though, found plenty to criticize.
Independent Bruce Danielson, who ran against Hauge four years ago and earned 47 percent of the vote, railed against 15 years worth of prosecution against Marcus Carter of the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club. Danielson called it the ongoing persecution “Exhibit A” as to why voters should choose him to replace Hauge.
“From the beginning of this campaign on through today I’m going to stress the importance of protecting our citizens,” he said.
Danielson said that will mean giving county staffers sound legal advice, not just telling them what they want to hear, and taking an aggressive stand against repeat offenders.
Tina Robinson, a public defender representing indigent clients facing felony charges, said she decided to jump into the race because she’s seen under-charging and over-charging of defendants in criminal cases, unprofessional prosecutors, a poor use of resources and a lack of compassion for victims.
“I could keep complaining, but I knew we needed new leadership,” she said.
One big problem that Robinson highlighted is charging decisions made by Hauge and his deputies.
“The issue isn’t plea-bargaining or reducing charges; it’s in the charging itself,” she said.
Democrat Bob Scales, whose first job out of law school was as a deputy prosecutor in King County, said he has more experience than all of the other candidates combined.
“I’m a problem solver,” he said. “As I’ve gone around the county talking about my campaign and listening, all I hear about are problems. Chronic nuisance properties, gangs, noise, drugs.”
One solution Scales offered would be to create a juvenile diversion program in Kitsap County so that young people don’t end up on a fast track to jail and prison.
Scales also criticized Hauge’s charging decisions in felony cases.
“The defendants are getting a sweetheart deal at the filing stage,” he said. “Individuals should be charged with the crimes they actually commit.”
Primary ballots are slated to be mailed Friday and must be returned by Aug. 5.
Kevan Moore is a reporter for the Bremerton Patriot.