PORT TOWNSEND — Clallam County deputy prosecuting attorney James Kennedy has announced his intention to run for Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney.
He aims to unseat Michael Haas who said Monday in a phone interview that he plans to seek re-election.
The candidate filing period for the Nov. 6 election is May 14-18.
Kennedy, 37, a native of Bellevue, has a bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College in New York and a law degree, with honors, from Seattle University School of Law in 2012.
Prior to law school, he served in the Army for almost six years as a platoon leader and later commanded a detachment consisting of 22 soldiers and 55 civilians.
He served two tours in Iraq: the first in a 12-month deployment; the second for 15 months. He left his military service as a captain and the recipient of the Bronze Star, Army Commendation and Army Achievement medals.
As a student at Seattle University, he interned with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office and later with the Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The internships gave Kennedy trial and case management skills, he said, and he focused on rehabilitation of troubled youth to end the cycle of recidivism and incarceration.
After graduation, Kennedy went to work for the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney’s office in District Court and later in the juvenile division.
He was offered the opportunity to move back to western Washington and worked as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office. Kennedy said he focused on troubled juvenile offenders, ensuring delinquent parents made child support payments and keeping drunk drivers off the roads.
In July 2016, he moved to the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s office. There he works to help offenders through such programs as drug court or the Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative, he said. When rehabilitation is not appropriate due to the violent nature of an offender’s conduct, Kennedy said he seeks convictions and sentences that protect the community.
“Over the past four years I’ve had a lot of litigation experience. I’ve taken over a dozen cases to trial, and I’ve argued a case in the court of appeals and the Washington State Supreme Court where I prevailed both times,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy noted that he left the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office at a time when the staff had a turnover of 150 percent in 18 months. He said that reflects “a crisis in leadership.”
“One of the things I’m running on is leadership. I was in leadership positions the entire time I was in the military. I was a platoon leader. I led convoys in Iraq. I became a detachment commander as a first lieutenant.When I went back to Iraq the second time I oversaw 50 civilian contractors who were augmenting my mission. I have leadership and management experience. I know how to administrate a collection of individuals and turn them into an effective group that can accomplish something.”
However, he said he didn’t want anyone to think that because of his military service, he’d be “extra hard on everyone who comes across my desk. I have the same prosecution values that are fairly widely held throughout the [North Olympic] Peninsula, the state and the Northwest.
“We focus on treatment and rehabilitation when we can without losing sight of accountability, community safety, and justice for our crime victims. We’re always trying to balance all of those things. Those are my values, too.”
Kennedy believes the biggest issues the county faces are traffic crimes, domestic violence, sex crimes and drug cases.
“Like many other rural areas, drugs pose a major challenge to Jefferson County and require all the attention and resources that they deserve in order to help the members of our community most afflicted by drugs while keeping our community safe from the related criminal activity.”
Kennedy and his wife, Krystal, live in Port Ludlow with their two children and another expected this summer. He serves on the Jefferson County YMCA board.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or a [email protected]