Pletcher, 44, says her campaign is about “justice with integrity.” She has emphasized the need to take into consideration the social factors leading to crime and to consider remedies other than incarceration and capital punishment as responses.
Pletcher has attempted to paint her opponent as more closely aligned with a “get tough on crime” approach, calling on Frugoli to reject the endorsement of Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle. Pletcher objects to Doyle’s willingness to supply release dates of inmates suspected to be undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Pletcher also bolsters her case for a change in leadership by asserting deficiencies in the district attorney’s office, such as a lack of transparency and data analysis.
Although both candidates are Democrats, Pletcher’s progressive policies helped her to secure the endorsement of the Marin Democratic Party.
“Tonight is the first night I’ve heard that term ‘justice with integrity,’” Frugoli said in a Sept. 19 debate with Pletcher, sponsored by local chapters of the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Frugoli told the audience, “Again, I think you really need to remember that knowledge is power.”
Frugoli, 61, a county prosecutor for 27 years and a police officer and sheriff’s deputy before that, says the ideological differences between her and Pletcher are minor. She says what truly differentiates the two candidates is their levels of experience.
“Does our office need change? Absolutely,” she said at the debate. “I’m an employee of the office and I’m proud to be there, but I’ve never said that we’re perfect and that change isn’t needed. The real question is who is the most qualified and experienced and capable to lead this office to the future.”
In addition to Sheriff Doyle, Frugoli has been endorsed by Marin County District Attorney Edward Berberian, who is retiring, and his three predecessors: Paula Kamena, Michael Gridley and Jerry Herman.
Frugoli acknowledged that the district attorney office’s presentation of data to the community has been inadequate.
“I’m here to change it,” she said. “That is why I put it in my platform.”
Frugoli said if she is elected she will have a computer dashboard created so that the public can see all of the district attorney’s relevant data, including a breakdown of prosecutions by race.
For her part, Pletcher has been quick to respond that the job of district attorney is really a managerial position and that she is the candidate with experience managing 25 attorneys as assistant chief of her Department of Justice office in San Francisco.
“Managing an office is a different skill set than trying cases; I’ve done both,” Pletcher said at the debate. “Anyone can post data on a dashboard. The D.A. has to know how to analyze that data.”
Frugoli responded, “This is not just a management position. If that were the case, we could just hire someone to evaluate data. This is about managing a team of trial attorneys and their staff.
“My staff has asked me to ask Ms. Pletcher what her trial record is,” Frugoli continued. “Because that is what we do; we conduct trials. My staff and colleagues are concerned that she might be the least experienced trial attorney in our office.”
During her 10 years as a federal prosecutor, Pletcher spent one year as an attorney in the major crimes unit, where she prosecuted a wide range of criminals including bank robbers, drug dealers and gang members. The other nine years she worked for the Department of Justice’s antitrust division fighting white-collar crime.
If deep ideological differences exist between the two candidates, the debate failed to display them. Yoel Haile, a criminal justice associate with ACLU of Northern California, who moderated the debate, asked the candidates a plethora of questions; nearly all focused on fairer treatment for defendants.
Haile asked the candidates if they support implementation of Senate Bill 10, which eliminated the bail bond system in California; whether they would be proactive in expunging past convictions for offenses that have been reclassified; if they would pledge not to punish defendants who refuse plea deals by seeking stiffer penalties; whether they would allow juveniles and young adults under the age of 25 to enter diversion programs instead of charging them and more.
For the most part, the candidates agreed, stating their support with some reservations expressed if the crimes committed involved violence.
Perhaps the issue where the candidates displayed the greatest disagreement was over Pletcher’s call to return rape kit examinations to Marin County.
Currently, physical evidence is gathered from Marin rape victims at Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center in Vallejo. Marin County contracts with Napa Solano Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) and Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) to oversee the exams. Victims are driven to the hospital by law enforcement officers if they wish.
A Marin County Civil Grand Jury report released earlier this year determined that the number of sexual assaults in Marin “are insufficient to support a local program.”
“Having an in-county SART exam facility would not reduce the impact to the victims or the county agencies,” the grand jury wrote. “SANE nurse proficiency is maintained and enhanced by sufficient experience and caseload.”
“We moved those exams to Vallejo because we were not doing right by the victims,” Frugoli said. “They were having to wait for hours. The nurses who were conducting the exams were not certified nurses. They were nurse practitioners.”
Frugoli said she would be willing to return the examinations to Marin but not unless SANE examiners could be provided and that would require funding by the Marin County Board of Supervisors.
Pletcher, however, said, “We can do this. We can do it for the same cost. We can bring the experienced nurses into Marin.”
The candidates reported their campaign finance contributions since the election on Thursday. Pletcher received $96,240 in contributions from July 1 to Sept. 22 while Frugoli received $56,582 during the same period. So far, Pletcher leads in total contributions received during the campaign with $337,619 in contributions. Frugoli has received a total of $280,497.
Frugoli narrowly missed securing a majority of the vote in the June 5 primary election, which would have allowed her to grab the brass ring without vying with Pletcher in the November runoff. Frugoli received 48.91 percent of the vote in June while Pletcher finished second with 30.56 percent. The third candidate in the race, A.J. Brady, who like Frugoli is a Marin County deputy district attorney, finished third with 20.32 percent of the vote. Brady has endorsed neither Frugoli nor Pletcher.
In a final riposte to Pletcher’s campaign slogan “justice with integrity” during the Sept. 19 debate, Frugoli noted that Pletcher was able to mention her endorsement by the Marin Democratic Party in her official candidate’s statement, even though doing so violates state election law.
The law prohibits candidates from stating their party affiliation in their candidate’s statement. Frugoli protested the inclusion, asserting that the endorsement indicated Pletcher’s party affiliation, since the party’s bylaws prohibit it from endorsing anyone who isn’t a registered Democrat.
Marin Superior Court Judge Roy Chernus allowed the mention to remain in the statement, however, because the Marin County Registrar’s Office filed its legal objection too late.
In her concluding remarks at the debate, Frugoli quoted from Chernus’ ruling, “‘Today’s ruling unfortunately creates an anomaly of including impermissible material in the voter guide, which under different circumstances would ordinarily have been stricken,’” Frugoli quoted.
“Is that integrity, intentionally violating election law?” she asked.
Pletcher has also questioned Frugoli’s integrity, asserting that Frugoli has used slate mailers tailored to mislead voters into thinking she is the only Democratic candidate in the race.
“The Frugoli campaign’s recent attempt to censure the section of the ballot statement that I am endorsed by the Marin Democratic Party seems particularly ironic,” Pletcher wrote in an email, “given their history of deception around this issue.”
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Sonoma State University; law degree, Golden Gate University, San Francisco
Experience: County prosecutor since 1990; former San Rafael police officer; former Marin County sheriff’s deputy
Two prosecutors in Marin DA’s race both claim mantle of experienceAge: 44
Occupation: Adjunct professor at University of California, Berkeley School of Law
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Yale University; law degree, UC Berkeley
Experience: Former lawyer for U.S. Department of Justice in San Francisco; member of the Marin Women’s Commission since 2011; former board member, Tam Valley Elementary School Parent Teacher Association
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