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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Incumbent Prosecutor Haskell to face Conklin in general election

Larry Haskell answers a question at The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages Forum with candidates for Spokane County Prosecutor, Thursday, July 21, 2022, in The Montvale Event Center.  (Liz Kishimoto/The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell will face nonpartisan candidate Deb Conklin the general election, after two Republican challengers failed to garner the votes need to oust Haskell.

On Monday, Haskell led with 28% of the vote followed by Conklin, running as a nonpartisan, with 27.1% of the vote. Republicans Stefanie Collins and Stephanie Olsen trailed with 24.1% and 20.1%.

Haskell, 68, drew no challengers when he ran for re-election the first time, but after his wife Lesley Haskell made racist statements on social media, three candidates filed to oppose his bid for a third term.

Earlier this year the Inlander published a story about the her statements, prompting Larry Haskell to apologize as he defended the integrity of his office.

Conklin, 69, led the primary on election night, but Haskell soon caught up as the other two candidates positions remained behind.

In response to questions from The Spokesman-Review about the primary results, Haskell responded via email with a statement thanking voters.

“I would like to thank all those who supported me with their vote in the primary election. I am very grateful to all those who continue to support me and what I do for our county,” Haskell wrote. “As we proceed to the general election, I will continue to work hard to earn the trust and vote of those who did not.”

Despite slipping behind Haskell in the vote count, Conklin remains “really excited” about how she fared in the primary.

“Coming in second is as good as first if it’s the primary in a top-two primary state,” Conklin said .

The pastor and former Clallam County deputy prosecutor plans to continue making the case that she can bring much needed change to the office, resulting in a reduction in crime and financial savings for taxpayers.

If elected, Conklin said she would utilize pre-trial resources to support defendants, diversion programs and specialty courts to solve the “revolving door of the jail and repeat offender” problems she sees in the county .

She also would require her deputies to only file charges they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt, a higher standard than probable cause. The higher standard eliminates the problem of overcharging defendants to force a plea deal, Conklin said.

With Republicans Collins and Olsen garnering more than 40% of the vote, Conklin said she knows it will be important to woo their supporters.

“I believe that my platform appeals to a broad spectrum, to Republicans and Democrats, to moderates and even conservatives,” Conklin said, noting saving money has long been a goal of conservatives.

Haskell is focused on victims and accountability for offenders in what, if re-elected, he said would be his last term. Haskell is also concerned about an increase in crime, but blames the problem on the state Supreme Court overturning Washington’s drug possession law and the Legislature reducing penalties for certain crimes.

He raised the most money out of any candidate in the race at more than $43,000 and was endorsed by the Spokane Police Guild, Republicans of Spokane County, and several of the deputy prosecutors he employs.

Neither Collins nor Olsen offered an endorsement this week, and Olsen did not return multiple requests for comment.

Collins was critical of Conklin in her statement acknowledging her primary loss. In an interview she said she doesn’t believe Conklin has the experience or “dedication to prosecution” to run the office, noting Conklin hasn’t worked as an attorney in decades and never worked in the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office.

“I just know she wants to change a system in which she never worked,” Collins said. “That sounds pretty reckless and conceited, actually, to think that somebody with no experience would be in a position to effectuate change.”

With Conklin moving forward, Collins said she believes Haskell will win a third term.

“By putting her name on the ballot, she guaranteed his re-election, so whatever her plan was, it backfired,” Collins said.

Despite her loss, Collins said she’s proud of her campaign offering voters a Republican alternative to Haskell.

“Our office has been under siege for quite some time and I thought that I could offer an alternative,” Collins said.

Collins said she’s taking her job at the prosecutor’s office day by day and that running for office has shown she’s not afraid to do new things.

“This was an adventure,” Collins said. “I had a great time doing this, I had a great time sharing my message with the community.”

Spokane County Election results are set to be certified on Aug. 16.