Candidates confident as DA race nears finish in June 6 election
Sun News Service
With the primary election looming, two prosecutors ” one with a long legal career, the other with a knack for leadership ” plus a veteran defense attorney, all say they have a good chance at securing the title of Nevada County District Attorney.
Deputy District Attorney Cliff Newell touts his endorsements ” namely from District Attorney Michael Ferguson, victim advocates Nick and Amanda Wilcox and the Nevada County Sheriff’s Association ” when asked what makes him the best man for the job.
Newell has also collected an array of support from Truckee, including backing from Truckee Mayor Beth Ingalls, Truckee Council member Barbara Green, the Truckee Police Officers Association and the Political Action Committee of the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe.
“My endorsements are strong and frequent,” he said Tuesday, sitting in his third floor office at the courthouse in Nevada City. “I earned them and I’m proud to get them.”
Deputy District Attorney Jim Phillips says his experience ” 500 felony convictions since 1998 and 11 years working as a prosecutor for the county ” is a compelling reason to elect him.
“I’ve got a heck of a lot of experience,” Phillips said between courtroom appearances in his second-floor office at the courthouse. “I’ve seen just about everything a felony prosecutor can respond to.”
Criminal defense attorney David Silber says his ability to envision innovative ways to approach criminal justice, offender rehabilitation and forming alliances between government and private agencies will benefit Nevada County residents.
“I like to build bridges,” he said. “I think a lot of people are fed up with how things are. I’m a fresh idea; a fresh start.”
All three candidates have been busy pounding the pavement, ordering election signs and attending luncheons, meetings and forums for their campaigns.
Newell and Phillips both say they agreed to run clean campaigns before they threw their hats in the ring, and they have both stuck to that commitment.
“We said we’d talk about what we have done, not about other people,” Phillips said. “This is as clean as you can be.”
Newell mentions Phillips and his experience as one of the reasons he considers himself lucky to work for the DA’s office.
Newell has worked two days a week in the Truckee office for the last two and a half years, and is familiar with the issues facing the eastern side of Nevada County.
Under his leadership, the District Attorney’s office will work to eliminate the “disparity of treatment between the two sides of the county,” said Newell.
“The citizens there deserve equal and fair treatment,” he said.
Silber hints there is discord within the DA’s office, which he uses in his campaign platform.
“I’ve heard there is acrimony in the DA’s office,” he said. “It might be because Ferguson endorsed one deputy district attorney over the other, but I want to make sure everyone works together in a good work environment. People need to think they have stock in the place they work and that people have a voice.”
Silber said as District Attorney he would like to implement several new programs, including an expanded Victim/Witness program and a re-entry program for young drug offenders.
“When people get out of jail, the odds are stacked against them,” Silber said. “With a re-entry council, they could come to the DA’s office, check in and we could see what they need. We could take them under our wing and they could be mentored.”
Newell and Phillips say their families, though supportive, are eager for their campaigns to end.
“My wife does not want a run-off,” Phillips said.
“I think it’s hard on any candidate’s spouse,” Newell said. “When you run for election it’s like living in a fishbowl.”
Newell has served as a deputy district attorney for four years, with two years served in Nevada County. He met his wife Kelly when they were working as camp counselors at Snow Mountain Summer Camp in Nevada City in 1980. The couple now own the camp.
He said he decided to become a prosecuting attorney when he was manager of an auto parts business in Chico and he saw the news coverage of Polly Klaas, the 12-year-old kidnapped at knifepoint from her home and murdered in 1993.
Phillips, a resident of Lake Wildwood in Penn Valley with his wife Lesley and three children, has been a prosecutor for Nevada County for 11 years. He volunteered for Victim/Witness and was a volunteer prosecutor before taking his current position.
“I’m committed to improved treatment for victims of crime,” he said Tuesday. “It’s one of my crusades.”
Silber, a private attorney for 11 years, lives with his wife Heather and two children in Nevada City. He was treasurer of the Nevada County Bar Association from 2002 to 2003 and was president of the association from 2003-2005.
“As attorneys, we’ve all taken the oath to defend the Constitution and to zealously represent our clients,” he said. “I intend to zealously represent the people of Nevada County.”
Silber said he’s got a good chance at winning because he’s learned residents of Nevada County want change.
Newell also appears confident he will be elected.
“I’ve got a strong chance at winning,” he said.
Phillips said he’s simply “not worried about it.”
“It’s all in God’s hands,” he said.
Sierra Sun reporter David Bunker contributed to this article.
Hometown: Yuba City, California
Education: Bachelors degree in political science from California State University, Chico, 1993; Law degree from Cal Northern School of Law, 1998.
Experience: Five years as a prosecutor, two years as a probation officer, 20 years in private business.
Hometown: Sacramento, California
Education: Bachelors degree from the University of California at Davis, 1987; Law degree from the McGeorge School of Law, 1994.
Experience: 11 years as prosecutor in Nevada County, more than five years with the California Victims of Crime Program, more than two years as a supervisor with California Department of Justice, more than 75 jury trials and 500 felony convictions.
Hometown: Queens, New York
Occupation: Private Attorney
Education: Bachelors degree in Law and Society from the University of California at Santa Barbara, 1991; Juris Doctor degree from the University of West Los Angeles School of Law, 1994; Admitted to State Bar of California June 5, 1995.
Experience: Eleven years of private practice, business experience, former president and treasurer of the Nevada County Bar Association, volunteer legal services for the poor.