Former prosecutor Mike Spencer says he’s “strongly leaning toward filing” for the vacant prosecutor position, setting up a potential battle with interim chief criminal deputy prosecutor Katie Svoboda, who has said she wants the prosecutor position.
Acting Prosecutor Gerald Fuller has been in the role since prosecutor Stew Menefee retired in September. Fuller has said he’s not interested in running for the elected post and has been supporting Svoboda, promoting her to his old chief criminal deputy position.
Spencer was edged off a list of potential candidates to fill Menefee’s post this past fall when the majority of the precinct committee officers for the Grays Harbor Democrats said they didn’t feel comfortable he would represent their values. Instead, they chose Svoboda as their top pick — and attorneys George Smylie and Vini Samuel as their next picks, even though neither Smylie nor Samuel really wanted the post. By state law, the Democrats had to pick three names and the commissioners had to choose one of those names to be the next prosecutor.
The commissioners ultimately picked Samuel, who declined the job. The Attorney General weighed in with an official opinion that the commissioners could ask for a new list of three names. The Democrats declined to give that list. And, since Gov. Jay Inslee has chosen not to get involved by making his own appointment, the process has been at a standstill for months with neither side budging and an Attorney General’s opinion stating that Fuller is empowered to serve the role of prosecutor.
Spencer says the political process left a bad taste in his mouth and for months he just wanted to move on with his life. Lately, he says friends from across the political spectrum have been encouraging him to run for the office.
“I see a need for an experienced prosecutor to be in that office,” he said.
Spencer says he’s not yet committed to filing for the position, but it “weighs strongly in my mind.”
He says he’s been seeking counsel these past few months in particular because the filing period is coming up May 12 to May 16 in the County Auditor’s Office. He says he will make a firm decision a couple of weeks before that time period to give anyone else waiting for his answer a chance to file.
“It’s not fair to them for me to just sit on an answer, but I am strongly leaning toward filing,” Spencer said. “I’m gathering counsel and getting positive feedback from people.”
Spencer served as the elected prosecutor in Grays Harbor County as a Democrat, and was elected twice, in 1982 and 1986, where he served just one year of his second term. Menefee was appointed in 1987.
Spencer went on to serve another six years as a Superior Court judge and is currently in private practice at Brown Lewis Janhunen &Spencer with offices in Montesano.
Svoboda is the only candidate who has filed paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission to raise money for the election. She’s raised $4,098.
Svoboda has been with the Prosecutor’s Office since 2004 and is supported by Menefee and many local Democrats.
If she were to win the post, she’d be the first female prosecutor in the county.