Rod Underhill, a chief deputy district attorney for Multnomah County, announced Thursday evening that he will be running for the position of district attorney in the 2012 election.
He is seeking to replace his boss, Michael Schrunk, who has been the district attorney since January 1981. Schrunk said on Tuesday that he was not planning on running for re-election, and that he would endorse Underhill.
Underhill said he wants to build on Schrunk's legacy and outlined three of his priorities -- addressing gang violence, family violence and empowering crime victims.
About gang violence, he said that as district attorney, "I will continue to aggressively prosecute violent crime, but we must all recognize the need to intervene before a violent act destroys lives. I will be a leader in fostering a coordinated response that focuses attention and resources on at-risk youth and their families."
Underhill is one of only two people who have announced their candidacies so far -- although neither had made it official with the Secretary of State's office by end of business on Thursday, the first day for filing.
Kellie Johnson, a former Multnomah County deputy district attorney, announced in July that she plans to run for the seat. She works as an attorney for the Oregon State Bar, handling disciplinary cases against attorneys accused of ethical violations. She is also a former president of Oregon Women Lawyers.
In a statement, Johnson credited Schrunk for teaching her "how to be a prosecutor and a leader during my time in the office."
"The next district attorney faces real public safety challenges in our community: gang violence, human trafficking of girls and young women, juvenile justice reform and the treatment of the mentally impaired in our justice system. Each of these areas will require creativity and a fresh perspective to identify new solutions that can be adopted under our current tight budget constraints."
Underhill has worked as a deputy district attorney for 23 years, with four years as a chief deputy. He has prosecuted gang and drug cases among others, and chairs the CARES NW Governing Board. He is also the secretary of the Oregon State Bar’s Bar-Press Broadcasters Council, and a member of the Multnomah County Equity Council.
In fundraising, Underhill currently has the edge. He has raised more than $51,000 from contributors including $5,000 from entrepreneur Junki Yoshida and $500 from Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Several lawyers from the district attorney's office also have made contributions to his campaign.
Johnson has raised almost $16,000. Contributors include attorneys from several law firms in the Portland area and $100 from Cyreena Boston Ashby, a 2008 candidate for the Oregon House and a deputy director for Gov. John Kitzhaber's Economic and Business Equity initiative.
By Helen Jung, The Oregonian