Resounding victory for incumbent in county prosecutor race

Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 6:47pm

Incumbent Brian Mackie decisively won the race for Washtenaw County prosecuting attorney on Tuesday, receiving 97.4 percent of the vote, while his challenger, D’Real Graham, received just 2.6 percent.

Mackie has served as county prosecutor since 1993 and will now serve his seventh term.

During his 24 years in office, Mackie has expanded the role of the county prosecutor to pursue technology-related and white-collar crimes, as well as emphasizing community outreach.

Mackie said the strength of his campaign lay in the proven record of his office’s staff and he was grateful for the trust the people of Washtenaw County had in him and his office.

“I really appreciate the trust that people have put in me and my office,” Mackie said. “We have great professionals working here. They work very hard and work very long hours, not just for the money but to provide good service, to hold offenders accountable for what they do and also to support the too many victims of crime in the community.”

Defeated challenger Graham is the program coordinator for 826Michigan, a volunteer educational organization. He campaigned on a platform of police accountability, pointing to his advocacy for police reform in the county with activist group Radical Washtenaw after the fatal shooting of Aura Rosser by an Ann Arbor Police Department officer in 2014.

A white police officer shot Rosser  after police were called regarding a domestic violence complaint that involved drug use. Mackie, who was prosectutor at the time, ultimately chose not to press charges after investigating the incident. Activists have argued Rosser was not given enough time to react to the officer’s orders to stop approaching them, and faulted Mackie for not bringing charges. Since then, community organizers have pushed for the city's Human Rights Commision to create a civilian committee to monitor the AAPD. 

Mackie said Graham and other activists were criticizing him with arguments based on emotion rather than solid factual evidence, citing six terms of addressing police accountability issues.

“We are living in a time when people certainly should be very, very aware of the power of police to take a life,” Mackie said. “They looked at incidents across the country, their complaints about this was not based on the facts of what happened. It was based on the feeling that there was too much violence on the part of police.”

While campaigning, Graham said had he been prosecutor at the time, he would have advised city administrators to invest in alternative crisis prevention units and advocated for increasing public transparency.

“If we don’t understand how the current system operates, we won’t understand how we are losing a workforce every 10 years,” Graham said in a September interview with the Daily. “We have more people entering the county jail than we have graduating from Eastern Michigan University. That should register as a problem for … anyone in this community.”

However, Graham, a write-in candidate, said recently he did not have a law degree and the legal experience typical for someone in this role. He acknowledged that his entry into the race on July 25 was too late in the election cycle to give him enough time to fully engage with voters and inform them about the write-in process.

“I think the write-in component was something that confused people, like, ‘Wait a minute. What do you mean write-in?’ ” Graham said. “I also think just a hundred days is not enough time to put together a strong enough team to provide that field work so people can actually be on the ground talking to people and helping to cultivate conversation.”

Graham said though he is unsure whether he will run again, he will continue to advocate for police reform. He is currently drafting a proposal to assist first responders in Ypsilanti for housing and higher education, and another proposal to create a community-police relations commission.

“I just really want to be helpful as much as I can, formally and informally,” Graham said. “I am just trying to maximize this momentum that we’ve been able to generate the last 100 days.”

Mackie said his focus in his next term will be on expanding programs help crime victims, who he said are not given as much attention as offenders. Though he said initiatives for offenders like the Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Program, which helps prisoners reintegrate back into society through employment and housing support, are worthy of praise, he argued society does not do enough to support victims.

“Victims need champions too,” Mackie said. “I’ve noticed through my campaigns that public groups rarely think about victims and their lives or ask questions about victims and how they are supported.”