As part of our endorsement process at The Urbanist, we ask candidates to complete a standard questionnaire to better understand and evaluate their positions. We then share this information with our readers to help inform their own voting decisions, supplementing our endorsements, which we’ll publish next week.
The following endorsement questionnaire was submitted by Daron Morris, who was running for King County Prosecuting Attorney until he announced he was suspending his campaign due to “medical reasons” on September 21st. Even with Morris no longer an active candidate, we decided to run the questionnaire he submitted because it offers another perspective on the office and some critiques of his opponent that may still be informative for voters. His name will still appear on King County ballots.
Morris’ opponent, incumbent Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, also submitted a questionnaire, and we will publish that later today.
Do you consider yourself an urbanist? What defines your urbanism?
Yes. I believe that urbanism promotes housing equity and better access to civic life and engagement for all people. I see urbanism as a necessary aspect of housing affordability and housing equity.
What is your position on I-940 De-escalate Washington (a ballot initiative that makes it easier to hold police officers accountable for use of deadly force) and why?
I fully support I-940. I signed the petition last year. My campaign is centered on issues of police accountability and on communities affected by police violence. Current law protects police officers who commit unjustifiable homicides so long as they acted “without malice and in good faith.” I-940 removes the malice clause and better defines the good faith standard. I-940 is also essential to state-wide de-escalation training and independent investigation of police deadly force.
The new King County Children and Justice Center (which includes a new 112-bed juvenile detention center) is under construction and projected to cost $225 million or more. Do you believe this is the best use of that money and why?
Absolutely not. Children do not belong in jails. King County has a stated goal of zero youth detention. This money would be better deployed toward funding community programs that can get us to that goal. The community is ready to step up, but needs to be supported. No amount of architectural features, yoga centers, or basketball gyms will make the new facility anything other than what it is: a jail. Most of the kids who are at the jail are not violent offenders. Those few kids who do need to be housed in safe spaced can be housed without resort to building a massive central youth jail that we will be forced to live with for decades.
Would you support vacating marijuana possession convictions given that marijuana has been legal in Washington state since 2012?
Yes. Our current county prosecutor needs to move forward on this but has been reluctant to do so. The City of Seattle is doing it. Mr. Satterberg should move forward with vacating felony marijuana convictions so that such convictions do not continue to preclude people from civic life, employment, or immigration/naturalization opportunities.
How should the County address the disproportionate impact of policing on people of color?
First and foremost, by acknowledging that the criminal justice system is unfair to people of color at every phase: from profiling, to arrest, to charging, to bail, to plea bargaining, to sentencing. Police and prosecutors need to track and publish clear and detailed data on these issues so that they can be held accountable to the public to show measurable progress and tackle the issue at its roots. We must also commit ourselves to systemic and consistent training about race and racism. Our police and prosecutors must hire staff from relevant communities, people with the necessary lived experience to understand the issues and do the best work. As prosecutor, I will do all this and I will end the money bail system, reform plea bargaining, and improve sentencing practices.
Should mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines be relaxed?
Yes. This can be done through legislative reform. It can also be done at the county level simply by our prosecutor agreeing to do so where compelling mitigation exists. Prosecutors can decide to confer more discretion to judges if they wish, and it’s particularly important to do so in cases involving youth, the mentally disabled, or other compelling circumstances.
How should the County handle the prosecution of the sex trade?
By focusing the arrest and prosecution of sexual exploiters (pimps and traffickers) and by ending so-called “demand abolition” approaches (arresting and prosecuting sex workers or their customers). Our County should not spend its resources arresting and jailing people for consensual sexual acts. There is much evidence that criminalizing sex work in this way actually makes sex workers less safe. We should de-criminalize sex work but dedicate ourselves to prosecuting sexual abuse and exploitation.
What role does the prosecutors office have in making our streets safer?
A vital one. Public safety is the core mission of the prosecutor’s office. The question is whether we achieve public safety through fairness and justice, or whether we do so at the expense of those values. Every King County resident wants the same thing: to be safe and secure, and to thrive. Our prosecutor can help ensure that opportunity by holding violent offenders and abusers accountable, by holding itself and the police accountable, and by dedicating itself to rooting out systemic unfairness. If our prosecutor’s office criminalizes people because they are poor but excuses the worst acts of police violence–that will not provide safety. Rather, the prosecutor and the public must engage in a relationship of mutual accountability to each other.