Before she scooted out of town Wednesday for a quick overnight hiking vacation in the mountains, the victorious Anne Marie Schubert was more than happy to acknowledge another winner in the Sacramento County district attorney’s race.
Schubert gained 58 percent of the primary vote to defeat Maggy Krell and Todd Leras and win the election outright, without having to carry the campaign forward to a November runoff.
On her way into the DA’s seat, Schubert shared the moment with the woman who will be giving it up.
Outgoing District Attorney Jan Scully, the 20-year incumbent who endorsed Schubert, gained a major sense of validation in the victory of one of her top deputies. In defeating Krell and Leras, Schubert fended off her opponents’ attacks on the way her boss had run the office for two decades. Krell had blasted away at what she called Scully’s “incarceration first” prosecutorial priority. Leras criticized what he called a “culture of fear” that he said permeated Scully’s administrative style.
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The election results, Schubert said, showed that the accusations didn’t much influence the public.
“Our polling was very clear that this community supports Jan Scully,” said Schubert, a deputy district attorney and supervisor under Scully who has worked in the Sacramento DA’s Office for 18 years in a career that spans nearly a quarter-century. “The good work that she’s been doing for 20 years has been validated.”
If the election served as something of a referendum on the way she did her job for five terms, Scully was quick to accept it.
“It was reassuring to know that our community really did value what our office has done and what we’ve accomplished, on how hard we’ve worked on their behalf for all these years,” Scully said.
Scully said she did not expect the campaign to be a referendum on the performance of her office, during a period when crime rates fell and the office adjusted to political and legal reality by pulling back from a hard-ball approach to three-strikes sentencing and by using caution in its application of the death penalty.
“I got over being kind of sensitive about it,” Scully said of the attacks. “I recognized that’s all they could do, because with Anne Marie, with her résumé, you really can’t attack her. So the office was a target. I can handle it. That’s what happens when you’re in an elected position.”
With all 1,102 precincts reporting, Krell, a state deputy attorney general who was endorsed by Gov. Jerry Brown and almost every leading Democratic officeholder in the state, finished second with 32 percent of the vote. Leras, a former county and federal prosecutor who is now in private practice, came in third with 10 percent.
Both offered Schubert their congratulations Wednesday.
“I knew it was going to be a tough race and an uphill fight, and not just because Schubert was the hand-picked successor, but also because she’s a great candidate in her own right,” Krell said.
Leras said of Schubert, “I had a lot of respect for her to begin with. Watching her during the course of the campaign, it only grew. I felt she handled the process with dignity.”
Her ability to raise money – $463,000 as of the final week before the campaign – would suggest that Krell might have a future in politics. More campaigning was not on her mind Wednesday, however.
“I’m actually sitting in my office, reviewing search warrants, and I couldn’t be happier about it at the moment,” Krell said in a phone interview.
Leras has spent most of his life doing criminal law, mostly as a prosecutor, but he said Wednesday that he hopes to redirect his career into civil law.
In looking back on the race, Schubert, a Sacramento native, said she thought she had an advantage over her opponents, both of whom come from out of town.
“I never underestimated my family roots,” she said. “I grew up in this community, and I think that matters. We’re a big family. And it’s not just having seven kids who are all adults and all have children and have friends. I also had tremendous support from our office. They worked their tails off. I reached into every nook of this county.”
Every one of the six public forums in the campaign was dominated by questioning about such things as crime prevention and how the county can best handle the thousands of lower-level offenders coming to Sacramento as a result of the state’s realignment law. Questions also pinpointed issues such as racial disparities in sentencing and whether too many juveniles were being tried as adults.
Schubert said at times the tone of the candidates’ forums made her feel that the idea of prosecuting criminals was being forgotten.
“At some point I felt like standing up and asking, when are we going to start talking about the victims of crime in this campaign?” she said. “I’ve been a victims’ advocate for 24 years. Sometimes it seemed to have been lost in this campaign. I never lost it. It was always at the center of my thought process.”
During the campaign, Schubert said her visits to the candidate forums and other community settings exposed her to some “really good ideas” on prevention.
“That’s going to be part of my thought process,” she said. “How are we able to do that without leaving our prosecutorial goals? That will never change. It will always be the core function of the office.”
As for Scully, she felt she got all the validation she needed last week when her peers in the California District Attorneys Association named her the winner of the Edwin L. Miller Jr. Leadership Award, the highest honor the prosecutors’ group bestows on its own.
She got some more when the results came in on the DA’s race. At Schubert’s election night party at the Elks building downtown, Scully introduced and embraced the eventual winner whom she personally had encouraged to replace her.
“As parents, we want our children to do better, to achieve more than we did,” Scully said. “And that’s how I feel about Anne Marie. I believe in her. I want her to do more, to achieve more than I did. I want her to take this office to the next level, and she’s very capable of doing that.”