The democratic candidates running for Washtenaw County prosecutor in 2020 spoke at a panel Saturday morning at the Washtenaw County Service Center. More than 130 attendees were at the event. 

Hosted by the Washtenaw County Democratic Party, candidates Hugo Mack, Eli Savit and Arianne Slay discussed their plans for criminal justice reform and their own experiences with the legal system.

The panel began with each candidate giving an opening statement. Mack, a former Washtenaw County chief assistant public defender and defense attorney, spoke on the restorative justice system.

“In terms of me, it is one thing to talk about restorative justice and say you believe in it, it’s quite something else to be the living breathing example of it,” Mack said. “That’s why I offer you, the citizens of Washtenaw County, restorative justice.”

Savit, a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, echoed Mack’s thoughts on restorative justice. He is also a senior advisor and counsel to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan as well as a lecturer at the University of Michigan Law School.

“What we are doing now is not working and it is not making us safe,” Savit said. “We are failing to address the root cause of criminal behavior.” 

Slay is currently a senior assistant city attorney for Ann Arbor and formerly the assistant county prosecutor from 2008 to 2017. She talked about how her experience has made her a qualified candidate for the position.

“My jurisdiction is small,” Slay said. “I only had the city of Ann Arbor, but what I had is an opportunity, and a blank slate and a platform, to bring restorative justice to life.”

Following their opening statements, audience members asked the candidates questions on topics including cash bail, prosecuting for the mentally ill, affordable housing and the drug court system.

Twice during the panel, attendees asked questions  regarding Mack’s criminal record. In May 1993, Mack’s license to practice law in Michigan was suspended after he was found guilty of first-degree sexual misconduct and felonious assault. He remains on Michigan’s sex offender registry. 

Mack said he will not drop out of the race due to his criminal record, claiming he was wrongfully accused. He noted that when the case was put to the Michigan Supreme Court, the appeal was denied 4-3. 

Those in attendance included City Councilmember Jack Eaton, D-Ward 4, who is a supporter of Eli Savit. Eaton is up for re-election for his seat on City Council in 2020, and two Democratic challengers have announced they are running against him.

In an interview with The Daily, Eaton spoke of how important this prosecutor race is.

“Our current prosecutor has been in office for decades, and this is a turning point,” Eaton said. “I think it’s essential we pick the right prosecutor. There are so many justice issues that involve the prosecutor’s office, so I’m excited that we have a good cast of candidates.”

Ypsilanti resident Mamie Rudd came into the panel undecided on who she would vote for. Following the conclusion of the event, Rudd told The Daily she was in support of Slay.

“(Slay) brought it out … there is a problem in Washtenaw County, especially with juvenile criminals, and adult people with mental health problems that are being tried as criminals,” Rudd said. “And we need to do something different.”

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