Schubert declares victory in Sacramento DA’s race

Anne Marie Schubert declared victory in the Sacramento district attorney’s race Tuesday night, winning by a wide margin over two opponents in the first seriously-contested campaign for the county prosecutor’s office in 20 years.

“I’m just humbled by the faith that this community has put in me,” Schubert, a deputy district attorney, told supporters at the Elks building ballroom in downtown Sacramento. “I’m going to make you all proud.”

Schubert’s win will make her the first openly gay leader to hold a countywide office in Sacramento. With all precincts reporting, she amassed 58 percent of the vote, compared to 32 percent for state Deputy Attorney General Maggy Krell and 10 percent for Todd Leras, a former county and federal prosecutor who is now in private practice.

Krell said in a brief interview as the results came in, “I’m proud of the campaign we ran. I feel like we left it all out on the game floor, so to speak.” She appeared to have conceded defeat in a statement she posted later on Facebook: “We didn’t win, but we brought up issues that mattered.”

Schubert, 50, established herself as the insiders’ favorite early in the campaign when she gained Jan Scully’s endorsement just three days after the outgoing DA announced on Jan. 7, 2013, that she would not seek a sixth term.

Sheriff Scott Jones joined Scully in endorsing Schubert, and many other local law enforcement leaders and labor organizations followed suit – cementing the public safety credentials of the longtime prosecutor. The endorsements also served to chill the aspirations of lawyers inside and outside the District Attorney’s Office who had given thought to running for the job.

Krell, 35, got into the race three months later than Schubert, with a promise to inject the DA’s Office with a new brand of innovative energy. She criticized the office under Scully as not doing enough to make the state’s realignment law work. Andrew Acosta, a prominent Democratic political consultant, signed on to run Krell’s campaign, and many of the party’s leaders – from Gov. Jerry Brown to state Attorney General Kamala Harris – would later support her candidacy. She also gained the support of the county probation officers union and other labor groups.

Leras, 50, said he got into the race mainly to push the realignment issue and to ensure that the county changed its priorities to accommodate the thousands of lower-level offenders who would be transferred from state prison and parole systems to local jurisdiction. He also expressed frustration with Scully’s “top-down” administration of the DA’s Office.

“I want to congratulate Anne Marie Schubert for her victory in the District Attorney’s race.” Leras said in a statement late Tuesday. “I have repeatedly said throughout the course of this campaign that I have tremendous respect for Anne Marie Schubert as an attorney. I had the privilege of serving with her on several teams when I worked in the District Attorney’s Office. Our differences have always been political, never personal.”

From the outset of the campaign, Schubert, a graduate of the University of San Francisco Law School, touted her 24 years’ experience as a prosecutor, including the last 18 in Sacramento, which she said qualified her for the job over her two opponents.

Along with trying an estimated 100 cases in her career, Schubert pointed to her management roles in the DA’s Office. She was supervisor of the misdemeanor trials unit and later headed the special assault and child abuse detail. She also campaigned on her role as the office’s DNA expert. She was the first prosecutor in the state to file charges against a suspect based on his genetic profile. Although she was endorsed by Scully, Schubert sought to separate herself from the outgoing DA and promised to conduct more community outreach and prevention programs if elected.

A prosecutor and a lawyer for 11 years, Krell presented herself as a leader in prosecuting mortgage fraud and as the point person in the state attorney general’s unit that targets the sex trafficking of young girls. The UC Davis School of Law graduate said the estimated 25 cases she has tried gave her enough courtroom experience. She also reminded interviewers and crowds at public forums that she defeated the death penalty appeal of Sacramento “thrill killer” Eric Leonard.

Krell said her experience as a state deputy attorney general took her to assignments all over California and gave her an outsider’s view that would help her bring about change in the county office. She emphasized that as district attorney, she would make crime prevention her priority over prosecution.

A private defense lawyer, Leras ran on a résumé showing 18 years as a local and federal prosecutor. A top student at UC Davis and later at the UC Berkeley School of Law, Leras also has worked as an assistant public defender in Sacramento County.

Often appearing jointly at candidate forums, the three contenders mostly discussed their qualifications for the job in what was generally seen as a clean campaign.

But there were a few negative turns. In a November candidates forum, Schubert accused Krell of prosecutorial misconduct in her handling of a Sacramento Superior Court case. Krell denied the charge.

In late March, Krell went on the offensive against the DA’s Office over its handling of sex trafficking cases, saying local prosecutors had been treating alleged juvenile prostitutes as suspects instead of victims. Schubert sought to turn the issue against her opponent, claiming that as a prosecutor in a pimping case, Krell approved an “illegal sentence” for a defendant who was placed in county jail instead of state prison. Krell said she wanted to keep the defendant in custody locally to monitor his contacts for investigative purposes.

Then, at a candidates’ forum in April, Krell slammed Schubert in the closing minute for taking pay raises while the District Attorney’s Office suffered budget cutbacks during the recent recession. Schubert countered that her raises had been established by labor contracts negotiated by the county.

On one of the most critical issues in any DA’s race – the death penalty – the candidates mostly agreed, saying they would limit their pursuit of capital punishment to only the most egregious cases. Leras was the only candidate to say he opposed the death penalty, although he promised to enforce it if elected.

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