District attorney election pits inside experience against outside perspective


By Benjy Wall-Feng

One of the most contested races in Marin County will be the runoff election for county district attorney between Lori Frugoli and Anna Pletcher on November 6.

A June 5 election gave Frugoli and Pletcher 48.9 and 30.6 percent of the vote, respectively, and a third candidate, A.J. Brady, received 20.3 percent. Frugoli would have needed more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid the runoff election she now faces against Pletcher.

One of the primary focuses of the competing campaigns has been that of experience: Frugoli has worked in the Marin County district attorney’s office for 27 years. She has been endorsed by current county district attorney Ed Berberian, who is retiring, and his three predecessors. Pletcher is a former federal prosecutor who spent 10 years working in the U.S. Department of Justice in San Francisco. She has been endorsed by the Marin County Democratic Party and the Sierra Club.

Frugoli has touted her experience within the DA’s office and the relationships she has built therein. Pletcher has framed her campaign as a push for change, citing various deficiencies in the office. Frugoli and Pletcher are both Democrats.

Both candidates have been the subject of controversy during the race. An August 30 press release by the Marin Democratic Party criticized a “misleading mailer” sent out by the Frugoli campaign which, it said, featured “the phrase ‘The Only Democratic Candidate’ in large bold font followed by ‘Endorsed by Every Former Marin County DA’ in a much smaller font.”

And Pletcher’s candidate statement, which mentioned her endorsement by the Marin Democratic Party and will appear on the ballot in November, was subject to a complaint by the Marin County Registrar’s Office for ostensibly violating California law that such statements “shall not include the party affiliation of the candidate, nor membership or activity in partisan political organizations,” according to the Marin Independent Journal.

But Marin County Superior Court Judge Roy O. Chernus ruled on August 29 that the objection had been made too late, and allowed the statement to remain.

Frugoli and Pletcher engaged in debate over a number of topics, including bail reform, probation, plea bargain negotiations, criminal records, at a forum hosted by the Marin County League of Women Voters and the Marin County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in San Rafael on September 19.

“I think Marin County is ready for a change. When you’ve had the same leadership for 80-plus years, you’re going to miss stuff,” Pletcher said. “They want a leader who can bring in restorative justice, they want a leader who’s going to address environmental issues, for example. These are things that the Marin County DA’s office, and my opponent, have just not done, or done poorly.”

“I think [Pletcher] is trying to put me in the same box as the current district attorney. There are many changes that need to be made, and I honor that — I acknowledge that, and I’m not him,” Frugoli said. “I’m my own woman. I stand for myself.”

Ian Duncanson contributed additional reporting. Photo courtesy of Community Media Center of Marin / League of Women Voters of Marin.