DFA’s 2020 Criminal Justice Slate

Our justice system is broken and our communities are hurting. Electing Judges, Sheriffs, and District Attorneys who share our progressive values and are willing to fight for racial justice, justice for immigrants, and an end to police brutality is a necessary step in fixing this system. 

These elected officials play a dominant role in what our justice system looks like and how it impacts local communities. Yet, all too often, these candidates don’t get nearly the level of scrutiny and demands for public accountability that a candidate for the U.S. or State House receives when they’re up for election.

Democracy for America has endorsed a growing slate of reform-focused candidates who are running for these positions across the country.

Selena Alvarenga

Judge, 460th District, TX

Selena is running for Judge because there is a movement in the Travis County community to elect progressives to lead the justice system and fight the inequalities within. In Travis County, like in many places, people of color are disproportionately incarcerated and receive disproportionately higher sentences. At the same time, defendants are often held for extended periods of time solely for the reason that they are too poor to afford cash bail; diversion and probation conditions are impossible to meet due to factors like work schedules, travel, and family commitments; and sexual assault survivors are discouraged by broken investigation and support systems.

Selena knows that in her role as a District Judge she would be an advocate for and implement into the courts new and progressive policies and approaches in order to end the two-tiered system and work for justice, not just punishment.

Karen Best

Yonkers City Court Judge, NY

Judge Best is running for Yonkers City Court because she believes, as a proud Millennial black woman, that the City’s bench needs to represent the people they serve. Additionally, comprehensive criminal justice reform needs to brought to the local level.

What Best embodies the most is the value of Standing for Justice. Ending police brutality, upholding reproductive rights for all (including women and trans individuals), and overall combating systematic racism and socioeconomic prejudice is what we need to bring not just to the state & federal governments, but local bodies as well. Creating governments that are representative of the people are a good start towards addressing these pressing matters.

Kim Foxx

Cook County State's Attorney, IL

Kim has been fighting for Cook County her entire career. She attended school at Southern Illinois University and SIU School of Law. As Chief of Staff for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Kim led the county’s criminal justice reform agenda to address racial disparities in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. She was also a veteran prosecutor—for 12 years she served as Assistant State’s Attorney in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office

Julie Gunnigle

Maricopa County Attorney, AZ

Julia is running for Maricopa County Attorney because she is a firm believer that if the County Attorney office stops wasting resources on non-violent, low-level cases where individuals deserve alternatives to jail time the system could effectively reduce violent crime in Maricopa County and hold public officials accountable for corruption.

Julia wants to tackle the criminals who prey on women, children, and the elderly. She believes that the County Attorney’s office should be smart with reforms so as to create real sentencing reform, end cash bail, have bond reforms, and eliminate private prisons. Julia would make the office fair for the residents of Maricopa County by creating effective diversion programs for young adults and children, veterans with mental health issues, and end prosecution of low-level marijuana offenses.

Vance Keyes

Tarrant County Sheriff, TX

Vance is running for sheriff because its time Tarrant County had a sheriff that prioritizes social justice and criminal justice reform. A sheriff who can clean up the mess created by inequitable and inefficient practices. He is running because he is ideally suited for this role. As a 20-year law enforcement veteran and captain of the Fort Worth Police Department, Vance is in a great position to understand how to fix the system and provide law enforcement that works for all people. Vance is going to work at keeping the communities safe. At the same time, he is going to make sure that all people are treated equitably and with respect. Vance has no primary opponent and the incumbent is vulnerable. He’s a one term sheriff that won by a slim margin in 2016. Vance is a viable candidate and perhaps the most qualified that has ever ran on the Democratic ticket for this office. He understands what all the people of Tarrant County need to be safe and it is not wasting money on incarcerating non-violent offenders, it’s not wasting money on keeping people in jail that can’t make bail.

Joe Kimok

Broward County State Attorney, 17th Judicial Circuit, FL

For decades, State Attorney races in Florida have been about which candidate could promise more convictions and longer prison sentences.

Joe is changing that. The core of his progressive campaign is that Broward County must dismantle mass incarceration because they are safer when they are freer. Joe is running to end cash bail, the war on drugs, and the school to prison pipeline. He is running to end the racial disparities in the criminal justice system and the criminalization of poverty. He is against the death penalty in a county that is one of the largest contributors to Florida’s Death Row. And in a county that saw the worst school shooting in a generation at Parkland, Joe is running on a platform that says gun violence isn’t just a mass shooting problem, but a problem that affects all of the communities.

Charmaine McGuffey

Sheriff, Hamilton County, OH

Charmaine is running for Sheriff because during her 33-year career, she built a record as a true reformer. She is the leader needed to bring justice reform to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. When she was appointed to the rank of Major in 2013, she oversaw the third largest jail in the state of Ohio. Within a three-year period, she led the effort to improve the Hamilton County Justice Center from its ranking as worst in the state to the best of the large jails in Ohio.

As Commander of the jail, Charmaine invited people to the table including social service agencies, former prisoners, clergy, and people experiencing homelessness, to bring forward fresh ideas and resources. With their input, she implemented specialized pods to address ways to improve safety and services. She created the women’s heroin recovery pod to help women start their recovery process and a pod for men with 6 months or less on their sentence to connect them with community resources before being released so they had a support plan for success.

Fanon Rucker

Hamilton County Prosecutor, OH

Hamilton County has been plagued by a hyper-partisan right-wing prosecutor for nearly two decades. As a result, the county has a criminal justice system that is structurally unfair and disproportionately hurts people of color and people without means. As a judge for nearly 15 years, Fanon saw this systemic imbalance in his courtroom every day and he refused to stand idly by and do nothing. This outrage is what has called him to resign his seat on the bench to pursue justice, not convictions, and create a safer and fairer Hamilton County.

Fanon’s entire career has been about boldly, and unapologetically, running on progressive values. When he ran for Hamilton County Prosecutor in 2004, he ran in a county that was red at the time and received advice to bite his tongue on his positions related to the death penalty and cash bail. Fanon refused to do so, and far exceeded expectations by getting nearly 90,000 votes as a write-in. This time around, he will continue to be true to the values and campaign on not seeking the death penalty, eliminating cash bail, not prosecuting non-violent drug charges, creating a Conviction Integrity Unit, and establishing a Hamilton County Reentry Court and a Hamilton County Housing Court.

John Williams

Athens-Clarke County Sheriff, GA

John has experienced the consequences of structural racism as a black man growing up in Gary, Indiana during the 1980s. He and all of his love ones have been stopped or detained for no reason. Athens-Clarke County has a community violence problem - gun violence, domestic violence, and mental health-related violence. As the top law enforcement officer in the county, the Sheriff has the responsibility to take initiative in addressing these problems and uniting all the municipal and campus police departments. The jail is understaffed and has serious transparency problems; there are also concerns about prisoner treatment. The current Sheriff’s department as a whole is suffering from staffing issues, low morale, and a general absence from the community at large. All of these problems persist under a 20-year incumbent who has cooperated with ICE and uses tough-on-crime rhetoric despite having been elected as Democrat in 2000.

Between the ICE controversy and many other missteps, it is clear that the incumbent no longer represents the values of this progressive community, and he went entirely unchallenged in 2016. The status quo is no longer acceptable and the community needs fresh leadership that is smart on crime, not tough on crime. Athens-Clarke need a Sheriff who respects the rule of law, but also the values of the community. The county needs a Sheriff who is willing to learn and give respect to the voices of activists, as opposed to protecting “how we do things” and scorning all people who bring up concerns.

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