Harcleroad won't seek re-election.
This time, he's not coming back.
Lane County District Attorney Doug Harcleroad announced Monday that he will not run for a seventh term when his sixth ends in 18 months. Harcleroad, who took a six-month sabbatical before returning for his current term, said it's time to step down for good.
"After discussion with my wife and careful consideration, I have decided not to seek re-election to a seventh four-year term as Lane County's district attorney," he said.
The veteran prosecutor spent little time reflecting on his career and instead turned quickly to the future, announcing that he will endorse Alex Gardner, his chief deputy prosecutor, for district attorney in the May 2008 primary. He then turned the news conference over to Gardner to announce his candidacy.
"This is a job I've been preparing for for a long time," said Gardner, 45. "I am a career crime fighter, not a politician. While I am not totally comfortable in the role of candidate, I know what it takes to be a good district attorney."
Harcleroad, who will be 60 when his term ends at the end of next year, said he hadn't decided to make this his last go-round when he successfully ran for a sixth term in 2004. But he said he has been telling people for months that he can't imagine running for another term.
He said he has no specific plans after leaving office but hopes "to work in some as-yet-undetermined capacity that allows me to do something worthwhile."
Although he didn't talk at length about specific reasons for his decision, Harcleroad acknowledged that the county's financial struggles and cuts to the prosecutor's office have been difficult. To balance a $1 million budget reduction in 2004, Harcleroad announced that the office would stop prosecuting more than 100 low-level misdemeanors; more cuts came a year later.
The loss of timber revenue, the failure of the most recent in a long series of county funding requests and the impending loss of federal assistance to timber-dependent counties leave little hope that the financial news will improve anytime soon.
Harcleroad's staff of 22 prosecutors is close to the smallest in more than 20 years, and the 5,000 cases a year they handle puts their workload at the highest in the state, he said.
"There is a factor to be considered as to whether or not this office has the resources to do the job, and frankly, this office doesn't have the resources to do the job," he said.
He also said the job takes a tremendous amount of energy, "and frankly, younger is better." But he said he remains energetic and enthusiastic about his work and promised to do it with as much dedication in his final 18 months as he did when he started.
"It is an honor and a privilege to be elected and to serve as a public official," he said. "For me, when I get up in the morning I think, `I get to go to work,' not `I have to go to work.' People who get to go to work every day are fortunate, and I consider myself very fortunate."
Harcleroad's office presided over some of the county's most notorious cases, perhaps none more so than the prosecution of Thurston High School shooter Kip Kinkel. The district attorney said he was "the first lawyer on the scene" of the mass shooting, arriving while patients were being triaged.
He was a prosecutor in the office but not yet district attorney when Elizabeth Diane Downs killed one of her three children and wounded the others in May 1983. As with the Kinkel case, he said his office still deals with legal issues and document requests for that case as appeals and other matters continue in the courts.
"Life never seems to end on those major cases," Harcleroad said.
Gardner said he's prepared to take on the challenge of managing the prosecutor's office on a lean budget. He said the six months he served as district attorney while Harcleroad took time off in 2004 helped prepare him for the job.
"It would be nice to have the staffing other offices have, but we'll deal with what we have," he said. "I'm going into this expecting I'll have to be frugal."
The salary for the district attorney is $125,484, of which $33,000 is paid by the county and the rest by the state. Health insurance and other benefits make the annual compensation worth $133,343.
It's too early to say whether Gardner will face a challenge in the May primary, but Harcleroad's announcement allows plenty of time to organize a campaign, and Gardner appears to be getting a jump on any rivals. He already has lined up support among law enforcement groups and launched a campaign Web site - www .gardnerforda.com. Lane County Sheriff Russ Burger was on hand to add his endorsement to Harcleroad's.
"Everyone supports him," Burger said of Gardner. "He reaches out more than anybody I've seen. He'll be a good one."
One potential contender is Democratic state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, a former Eugene city prosecutor and deputy district attorney who has served on the Eugene Police Commission and the board of the Child Advocacy Center.
Asked Monday about a run for district attorney, he said it's at least a possibility.
"I've had people talk to me about it, and I've said I would give it some thought but that right now my focus has to be on the session," he said. "I guess you could say I'm not ruling it in, I'm not ruling it out."
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|Title Annotation:||Government; The six-term district attorney will make way for new leadership in the 2008 balloting|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Jun 12, 2007|
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