Democrat Kimberly Graham will face Republican Allan M. Richards for Polk County prosecutor in the general election.

They are looking to replace Polk County District Attorney John Sarcone when he retires at the end of this year. Sarcone, a Democrat, has held the unshared post since 1991.

To help voters, the Des Moines Register sent questions to area candidates competing in contested races this year. Their responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

The registry did not send questionnaires to contestants in countywide uncontested races. They include Democratic incumbents Mary Wells for County Treasurer and Julie M. Haggerty for County Recorder. Polk County outgoing supervisors Matt McCoy in District 1, Tom Hockensmith in District 4 and Angela Connolly in District 5 are also running unopposed. All are Democrats.

Early voting begins Oct. 19 for the Nov. 8 election.

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Who is Kimberly Graham?

Age: 58

To party: Democrat

City of current residence: monks

Education: Juris Doctor from Drake University; degree from the University of California, Irvine

Occupation: Lawyer

Political experience and civic activities: Member of the NAACP Legal Appeals Committee; former board member of ArtForce Iowa; candidate for the United States Senate in 2020; volunteer and fundraiser for several declining Democratic candidates in 2020

Who is Allan M. Richards?

Allan M. Richards

Age: 68

To party: Republican

Where did you grow up? Iowa

City of current residence: monks

Education: Masters in Agricultural Law from the University of Arkansas; Juris Doctor from Whittier College School of Law; BA in Politics and Commerce from Luther College; candidate for master of arts, political science and public administration at Minnesota State University

Occupation: Lawyer

Political experience and civic activities: Former member of legal counsel for the creation, organization and implementation of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center at the University of Iowa; member and past president of the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association; former party chairman; former member of the Central State Committee; 1978 primary candidate for state representative; former board member of the Homebuilders’ Association

What do you think is the biggest problem facing people in your county?

Graham: There are several key issues, but there is a growing epidemic of gun violence across the country and in our community that needs to be addressed. We are unlikely to see any significant changes at the state or federal level, so we need to do what we can at the local level. As a Polk County attorney, I will seek to partner with law enforcement, community organizations, and businesses to create a gun buyback program. There is no single thing that will end the epidemic of gun violence, but it would take guns out of our community and that is something we can do.

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Richard: That the magnitude of the problems demands a vision that will bring peace and harmony to all the people of Polk County. A need to create relationships within and between the groups we interact with on a daily basis. A vision to interact with all groups in a meaningful way to provide feedback and interaction. A plan to bring together all the actors, children and adults, schools and communities, elected and informal associations and neighbours. An open justice center with lawyers ready to cooperate, educate and serve. Law and order will be paramount. Zero tolerance for acts that violate the rule of law. Putting order in the promotion of just and equitable solutions in accordance with the rule of law.

What new programs or initiatives, if any, would your office launch under your leadership?

Graham:

  • We will establish a Belief Integrity Unit.
  • We will establish an Economic Justice Unit to focus on prosecuting financial crimes against workers, such as wage theft.
  • We will hire a social worker to connect people to services.
  • We will focus office resources on increasing victim services and on sexual assault, homicide, elder and child abuse cases. We will also invest in meaningful diversion programs for our children, to keep them out of the system whenever possible.

Richard: Pursue the equitable and practical programs of John Sarcone as detailed in Polk County Restorative Justice Center Programs. Embrace the efforts of the Polk County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to seek peace and agreement. Give an “olive branch” to the attorneys and staff of the county attorney’s office, establishing an atmosphere of peace and understanding. Program for the use of … statistical and analytical tools available to better serve and protect. Program to identify mental health and addictions issues that could benefit from deferral programs. Opportunities under an “American justice agenda” to demonstrate respect for law and order. Fight to restore discipline for all minors through families, schools and other contacts with minors in the certain expectation of doing good rather than evil.

The Pieper Lewis case, in which a young sex trafficking victim stabbed to death a man who allegedly repeatedly raped her, raises questions about the state of Iowa’s requirement that those convicted of one crime resulting in the death of another pay $150,000 in restitution to the families of their victims. In your opinion, should this general policy continue? Is there a better way to determine what compensation you would support?

Graham: No, this global policy should not continue. A better way to determine restitution is to consider all the facts of the case. Justice is not unique.

Richard: The public facts suggest that deferred judgment is appropriate. The statute suggests that restitution was demanded by the court. The personal history of trafficking and abuse requires support for the victim. All victims have the right to counsel regarding restitution and recovery rights. The general policy should not be applied when the specific facts suggest that better options are available. As a Republican elected official, I would be in a better position to advocate with Governor Reynolds and Republican legislative leaders for this and other necessary amendments to the law.