Steve Tucker has a new challenger in the race for Spokane County prosecutor.
Chris Bugbee, a 42-year-old Republican who worked six years as a deputy prosecutor, announced his bid Wednesday to unseat his former boss. He joins fellow Republican David Stevens and Democrat Frank Malone in what is now a four-way race for the position.
“I think the office needs a real leader,” Bugbee said. “I don’t think Mr. Stevens is an appropriate candidate. I think he has demonstrated some questionable judgment. I fear that if he is going to be making those decisions as elected prosecutor, the consequences to the public will be even bigger.”
Bugbee, who has been working since 2002 as a defense attorney, had nice things to say about Malone.
“He’s a very decent guy whom I like,” he said. “But he doesn’t have the experience from the prosecutor side to run that office. I’m the only one who has experience on both sides.”
Bugbee worked from 1996 to 2002 as a deputy Spokane County prosecutor. Starting out with misdemeanors, Bugbee later worked with drug cases. For his last three years under Tucker, he prosecuted major crimes.
Malone said he believes Bugbee is a “capable attorney and a good guy” but he disputes Bugbee’s characterization that he lacks the experience to be prosecutor.
“I just contrast my experience in managing other things,” said Malone, who served 27 years in the Air Force and Air National Guard. “I think being an outsider in this set of circumstances may be more of an advantage.”
Tucker said he was puzzled as to why anyone would be critical of his leadership.
“I am managing 67 attorneys. I make decisions just about daily,” Tucker said. “I’d be interested to see what (Bugbee) means by leadership.”
Stevens, another former deputy prosecutor, whom Tucker fired after he announced his candidacy, said he agrees with Bugbee that Tucker lacks the leadership skills to manage the office effectively.
“I’ve worked cases with (Bugbee). I’ve found him to be knowledgeable and ethical. He’s a good attorney,” Stevens said. “I look forward to hearing exactly what his ideas are.”
Bugbee is representing Cole Strandberg, the mentally ill man charged with first-degree murder for the Jan. 7, 2008, slaying of 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron.
Strandberg was a prominent figure in a recent “Behind Bars” TV episode on the Discovery Channel that explored how jailers deal with problem inmates in the Spokane County Jail.
The deadline for candidates to file for the office is June 11 for the Aug. 17 primary election, which will narrow the field to the top two vote-getters in advance of the November general election.