King County Prosecutor – Stephan Thomas

Request for Endorsement – Municipal/Other Questionnaire

Candidate Info

Candidate Name Stephan Thomas
Position Sought King County Prosecutor
Are you an incumbent for this position? Non-incumbent
Home Legislative District 34th
Are you a Democrat? Yes

Campaign Info

Campaign Manager or Point of Contact Angeline Thomas, info@votestephanthomas.com
Mailing Address 3627 SW OTHELLO ST
Phone +16307764288
Email stephan@votestephanthomas.com
Website https://www.votestephanthomas.com/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/votestephanthomas
Twitter https://twitter.com/stephanthomaskc

Part I – Candidate Background

1. Please briefly describe your qualifications, education, employment, community and civic activity, union affiliation, prior political activity, and other relevant experience.

I am a former Senior King County Prosecutor and national expert on leveraging the power of the prosecutor to promote compassionate accountability, strategies and tactics to build an equitable criminal justice system, and the leadership skills necessary to implement meaningful change.

My expertise is borne out of my lived experience. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I was exposed to the war on drugs, the impact of domestic violence, and gang activity. I learned first-hand that privilege and opportunity would enable my community to overcome our collective trauma.

Most recently, I served as the Director of Strategy and Implementation at Prosecutor Impact, a national prosecutor training organization, where I designed and implemented leadership development initiatives for prosecutor executive teams and facilitated experiential learning opportunities for front line prosecutors which included empathy building experiences such as a visit to prison to meet currently incarcerated individuals, a poverty simulation, a community mapping exercise where prosecutors identified and connected with community-based organizations, and facilitated conversations on dismantling institutional racism.

I started my legal career in 2011, as a trial attorney at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) where I tried a wide range of cases including Felony Domestic Violence, Robbery, and Sexual Assault. In 2017, I was appointed to the KCPAO executive team and served as the Director of Community Justice Initiatives where I worked in partnership with community based organizations and system stakeholders to design culturally relevant youth and young adult restorative justice initiatives.

In addition to my career of service, I have also remained politically and civically engaged. I am a graduate of the Institute for a Democratic Future, a former member of the 37th Legislative District, and a current member of the 34th Legislative District’s Endorsement Committee.

Currently, I am a board member and graduate of the Washington Leadership Institute, an organization that recruits, trains, and develops traditionally underrepresented attorneys for leadership positions in Washington State. I have also been an executive board member of the Loren Miller Bar Association, Washington State’s bar association for African American attorneys.

For my commitment to public service and leadership in the legal community, I was voted the 2018 Vanguard Leader of the Year by my alma mater, Seattle University School of Law.

2. What prompted you to run for this office?

In 2019, after suffering a series of family deaths, including my father, both my wife’s parents, and what would have been our second child, my wife and I decided to take a sabbatical. We both left our jobs, sold our house, and bought one-way tickets to Asia to have time to grieve and heal. During that trip my wife decided to become a hospital chaplain and I committed to giving my heart and mind to transforming our criminal justice system.

After returning home from abroad, we moved to New Orleans in order for my wife to complete a chaplaincy training program. Then on our 12th wedding anniversary, George Floyd was murdered and the whole world rose up and called for an end to racism within the criminal justice system. When I called friends and elders in Seattle about what I could do to contribute to the movement for social justice, they unanimously told me that because of my lived and professional experience that I should consider running for prosecutor. After a period of discernment, my wife and I made the decision to return home to King County in order for me to pursue running for King County Prosecutor.

Upon returning to Seattle, I began a listening tour which included conversations with labor leaders, community outreach workers, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, small business owners and formerly and currently incarcerated individuals. They told me, and I saw first hand, that King County was facing a major public safety crisis. Homelessnes, gun violence, and property crime were on the rise yet people felt disconnected from the KCPAO and had lost hope that the criminal justice system would address racial disparities and provide marginalized victims with the resources they need to heal from harm.

When Dan Satterberg announced that he was retiring it confirmed that this was an opportunity for transformative change and to end the 40 years of Republican stronghold over the KCPAO,

3. What steps are you taking to run a successful campaign?

I have hired Upper Left Strategies to consult on campaign strategy and outreach given their track record of success electing progressive candidates of color such as Seattle Port Commissioners Toshiko Hasagawa and Sam Cho, King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, and State Representative David Hackney. Together we have a targeted field plan, polished messaging, a direct mail and digital advertising strategy, and endorsement advising.

Additionally, I have partnered with Katherine Bobman consulting to help with fundraising which includes organizing call time, fundraising events, and fundraising outreach. As of March 1, only one month after my announcement, I’ve raised $52,000, which at last filing, was more money than any of my opponents. I also plan to host 1-2 fundraisers per week.

I’ve had the most media coverage of any candidate in this race which signals a strong interest in my candidacy and a hunger for change. Earned media includes an article in The Stranger, The Capitol Hill Blog, Real Change, South Seattle Emerald, and an online interview with Converge Media (interview begins at 30 minute mark). I plan to get the Stranger’s endorsement to help turn out Seattle voters in my favor, so I can focus resources and voter outreach efforts on South and Suburban Eastside King County.

I’ve earned the early endorsement of numerous city/county elected officials, civil rights activists, public health officials, and leaders of community-based organizations. I’m currently speaking with LDs, recruiting members, and activating PCOs.

I’ve recruited a robust kitchen cabinet of advisors with a wide spectrum of expertise including former prosecutors, public defenders, formerly incarcerated individuals, housing advocates, civil rights attorneys, and public health practitioners which will help broaden connections, ensure robust fundraising, and craft innovative policies that will speak to King County voters.

4. What are your campaign’s most important themes, issues, or priorities (three to five)?

Homelessness: Prosecutors are elected to be advocates for implementing public safety strategies that build healthy and thriving communities. As King County Prosecutor I will advocate for long-term solutions that employ a housing first model, provide resources and training to prosecutors and staff to identify and address the root causes of homelessness, and support coalitions that respond to problems posed by encampments without law enforcement or displacement.

Gun Violence: King County is experiencing a 25 year high in gun violence deaths. Gun violence is concentrated among a small number of people in a small number of places and it is those places that have borne the brunt of Covid-19 and its effects. To empower communities to prevent and address gun violence, I will prosecute individuals and organizations that are trafficking in illegal firearms, support the expansion of funds to local grassroots anti violence organizations, support deescalation strategies that employ individuals with direct experience of gun violence, and design intervention programs for youth and young adults that are arrested for gun possession.

Redefine Success in the Criminal Justice System: For far too long prosecutors have measured success by guilty convictions, trial wins, and sentence length, which has historically exacerbated injustice. Community expectations about justice have evolved, yet our field has refused to take a critical look at the tools we use to achieve “justice.” I am committed to redefining success by focusing on reductions in recidivism, survivor satisfaction, and community outreach.

Part II – Yes/No Questions, please qualify your answer if necessary

1. Do you support steps to build a fairer economy through tax reform and progressive taxes as wealth increases? Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #1
2. Do you support robust investment in publicly owned housing/subsidized housing for elderly and low-income individuals/families, and zoning changes to support such housing? Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #2
3. Developer impact fees are allowed under the Growth Management Act. Should they be increased to help pay for needed improvements to our roads, parks, and schools? Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #3
4. Do you support building a municipally owned and operated broadband system in your city or jurisdiction? Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #4
5. Do you support local investments to address climate change where applicable? Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #5
6. Do you support women’s unrestricted access to reproductive healthcare? Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #6
7. Do you support laws regulating the purchase, ownership, and carrying of firearms? Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #7
8. Do you support the right of workers to unionize and bargain, including public employees? Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #8

Part III – Free Response (Please answer at least four fully, and consider the additional three optional)

Why are you requesting Democratic endorsement? What aspects of the Democratic platform most resonate with you?

I have been a lifelong democrat and raised in a democratic family where my parents taught me that this was the party that stood up for working people, the marginalized and disenfranchised. I am a graduate of the Institute for a Democratic Future and a member of the 34th Legislative District Endorsement Committee. The Democratic party is the only party that resonates with my values and I believe that my vision will help further the Democratic party’s commitment to building a fairer and more just criminal justice system.

The aspect of the 2020 Democratic Platform that most resonates with me is the plank that states “Protecting Communities and Building Trust by Reforming our Criminal Justice System,” because this plank recognizes the need to overhaul the criminal justice system, invest in evidence-based safety practices, and acknowledges that prosecuting children as adults is unjust.

2. What public policy reforms do you support to achieve greater equity and inclusion for BIPOC and LBQIA+ individuals in our communities?

I will be an advocate of upstream investments in education, living wage jobs, housing, and healthcare that can prevent involvement in the criminal justice system.

I will seek to end practices that disproportionately harm marginalized communities such as eliminating cash bail, charging children as adults, and I will not accept cases from officers who have a history of using race as a pretext to stop and frisk.

I will support the development of a “Conviction Integrity Unit” that looks at prior sentences that are excessive and negatively impact communities of color.

I will implement “blind charging” where a person’s race and location are removed from a report so that the decision is made based on the facts and not identity.

I will increase transparency by publishing publically available data on racial disparities in filing, dismissal, sentencing, and plea offers. When the disparities arise, the policy of the office will be to determine the cause, address the disparity, and implement proactive solutions.

I will partner with community-based organizations led by BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ to offer culturally responsive interventions and restorative justice opportunities that divert individuals away from the criminal justice system.

3. What steps do you think need to be taken to improve voter turnout and increase voter trust in our election process?

Voting has been essential to protecting the rights of marginalized communities. I support the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

I will focus on young people and engaging 18-29 year olds. I’ve already been invited to speak at UW three times and hope to outreach to other college campuses.

I will also focus on the formerly incarcerated population who were recently renewed their right to vote.

Because representation matters, we need to support and uplift candidates of color that reflect the communities that are most impacted by the criminal justice system.

4. What important local issues have you worked on (or taken an interest in) that you feel aren’t getting enough attention from elected leaders and the local media?

King County continues to prosecute children as adults which results in multi-decade long prison sentences. This practice is rooted in historical racism and is primarily used against young kids of color. It has also been proven to be ineffective and increases recidivism. I wrote an op-ed in the Seattle Times entitled, “End the Cruel Racist Practice of Prosecuting Children in Adult Court,” to bring attention to this issue. If elected, I plan to hold children accountable in juvenile court where they can receive age-appropriate consideration and services.

With the passage of HB 6164, prosecutors have the power to seek resentencing for any case that no longer serves the interest of justice. Implementing this rule would mean that many deserving individuals could be resentenced and thereby released from prison resulting in cost savings, restored families, and increased equity. If elected, I would build a “conviction integrity unit,” to ensure that the prosecutor’s office has the resources necessary for this law to be fully implemented.

I support ending cash bail because it discriminates against poor people and building pretrial services, which means that people who do not pose a safety threat can be released from jail and connected to community services before their trial.

5. Please list at least three specific, concrete actions you would support to ease the homelessness crisis. Support the expansion of street outreach teams such as Just Care.
Build tiny homes villages to get people off the street now and invest in more affordable middle housing.
Expand treatment on demand services for those currently experiencing addiction.
6. What safety, law, or justice issues are currently facing your jurisdiction, and how will you address them?

Wealth disparity and the lack of a social safety net means that when people fall through the cracks, they end up in the criminal justice system. Creating true safety requires a more robust focus on community investment, crime prevention and intervention, and support for individuals released from prison and jail.

Research shows that incarceration exacerbates mental illness and trauma and more often than not, results in a person returning to the criminal justice system. Reversing this trend will require a massive investment in and expansion of non-carceral innovations such as treatment courts, restorative justice initiatives, and public health interventions.

Reckoning with the ongoing legacy of racism in the criminal justice system will require a data driven approach to ending racial disparities in charging, pleas, sentencing, and access to diversion. Not only will I increase transparency, but will take actions such as “blind charging,” to eliminate racial bias in charging decision making.

Our high recidivism rates are unacceptable. We need to better track, study, and publish data on what’s working and seek to expand these services beyond pilot programs and under-funded success stories.

7. What are the transportation/transit challenges which face your jurisdiction and how would you address them? What role does green energy play in your proposed solutions?

Most pretrial services exist in downtown Seattle, yet we have people coming from all over the county who need access–many who rely on public transportation. People who are justice involved should have access to free or reduced ORCA cards, there should be more rapid bus lines directly to the courthouse, and pretrial services should be expanded to every part of the county.

I am a lifelong user of public transit and support investments in expanded light rail, electric and natural gas powered transit options, and transit oriented development.

 

By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.

Printed Name Stephan Thomas
Date (mm/dd/yy) 03/02/2022

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