By NEIL MODIE
BELLEVUE -- Interim King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, taking the offensive, dismissed as "grandstanding" Wednesday his election opponent's often-repeated promise to try one criminal case a year if he becomes prosecutor.
In a Bellevue debate with Bill Sherman, a deputy prosecutor and a Democrat, Satterberg said Sherman "wants to be, as the elected prosecutor, going into court, pointing the finger at the bad guy and impressing the jury and hoping the media is there to cover his one case a year. To me, that's grandstanding ... It becomes a political event."
A Republican and career prosecutor, Satterberg criticized Sherman more aggressively than he has in their previous public appearances, including a debate last week. He labeled Sherman's tenure in the prosecutor's office "a journeyman's experience, three years in the office, only in the criminal division."
Before now, Satterberg mostly has listened to Sherman criticize decisions and policies of the prosecutor's office and has stressed his own experience as its chief of staff for 17 years under Prosecutor Norm Maleng, who died May 24. Satterberg was appointed to succeed him.
When the candidates were asked the main differences between them, Sherman said it is their attitude toward governing. He said the prosecutor should "not just rest on his laurels" but be an innovative leader who looks to other criminal justice jurisdictions for new initiatives that have proven themselves.
Sherman said he would place greater emphasis and prosecution resources on elder abuse and drug-related crimes. He said King County has one of the few major prosecutor's offices in the country that lacks an environmental crimes section.
The Democrat said he would be more aggressive about prosecuting gun-law violations. And as he has before, he criticized the prosecutor's office for not aggressively prosecuting offenses by King County sheriff's officers that the Post-Intelligencer exposed in 2005 and 2006.
The office, Satterberg retorted, "is not the cesspool of corruption and mismanagement that Bill thinks it is, but you have to say something when you want to throw the bum out of office."
"I think this election is about qualifications," he said, noting that he has been in the prosecutor's office for 22 years and, with Maleng, has seen 180,000 felony cases go through the office in his 17 years as chief of staff.
"Bill has been in the office for three years," Satterberg said. "He has never managed another person during that time. He's never tried a homicide case. He's never been promoted." He said he himself has tried more cases than Sherman has.
Sherman claims a greater breadth of experience, having worked during the Clinton Administration in the offices of the vice president and the secretary of the interior, and in Interior having helped develop a management plan to improve efficiency and reduce costs. He also worked as a civil litigator in a law firm before becoming a deputy prosecutor.
A Republican running in a Democratic county, Satterberg has emphasized his and Maleng's nonpartisan management of the office. "I think this office ought to be a nonpartisan office, quite frankly, and if I'm elected I'm going to work to make this a nonpartisan office" by changing state law and the County Charter, Satterberg said.