After almost 20 years as Sacramento district attorney, Jan Scully has decided against seeking another term in 2014, and is trying to pave the way for her possible successor by endorsing Deputy DA Anne Marie Schubert.
Sheriff Scott Jones and former Sheriff John McGinness also are supporting Schubert.
There is nothing wrong with any of that. Voters expect public officials and figures who have special knowledge to give their recommendations. The Bee's editorial board doesn't doubt that Schubert, a career prosecutor, is a fine lawyer, an honorable individual, and could serve as the county's top prosecutor.
But Sacramento County has had the same top prosecutor since 1994. Much has changed since then. After two decades of having the same district attorney, competition is in order. There are no fewer than 7,900 attorneys in Sacramento County. Although few lawyers have the talent and skill to be the top prosecutor, surely more than one lawyer in Sacramento County has the chops to do the job.
Like Scully, the next district attorney needs to pay attention to the needs of crime victims. The person needs clear policies on when to seek the death penalty, and be willing to help implement Gov. Jerry Brown's criminal justice realignment.
The next district attorney should take a page from retiring Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who, in addition to prosecuting murderers, rapists and thieves, focused on public corruption. The Sacramento DA has operated under budget constraints. But in the seat of state government, surely there is room for an aggressive public corruption unit. There also should be personnel assigned to investigate police shootings.
The next district attorney should have a streak of compassion and push for an expansion of mental health and drug courts, where lower-level offenders can get help rather than being sent to jail or prison to be warehoused.
To her credit, Schubert is taking nothing for granted. She is doing what smart politicians should do by locking up important endorsements early. That speaks well of her. She also has a vision of what she would do if she were to win.
We don't question that Schubert has the intelligence, grit and know-how to serve as Sacramento County district attorney. But a spirited and honorable campaign never hurt anyone. Sacramento County residents and their criminal justice system would be better for it.