Public defender and former prosecutor Brian Decker on Sept. 13 announced his bid to unseat Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton, who secured a landslide win in 2018 after a six-figure donation from Nike.
Unseating Barton has been a priority for national progressive groups funding criminal justice reform in Oregon.
“Brian understands why and how we must reimagine public safety in Washington County in a way that works for everyone,” state Rep. Wlnsvey Campos (D-Aloha) said in a statement Monday. “I know he has the skillset to create change and restore confidence in our criminal justice system, which is why he has my full support.”
For four years, Decker has been a criminal defense lawyer for Metropolitan Public Defender in Beaverton. Court records show he is currently representing clients facing charges for serious crimes, including sexual abuse, murder, robbery and identity theft. This work informs his candidacy.
“Brian understands that high conviction rates do not mean more safety in the community,” Decker’s campaign website says. “As a public defender, he’s seen the pain caused by crime and the misguided attempts at deterrence that result in a revolving door to the jail. That’s why Brian supports justice, not just convictions.”
Before Beaverton, Decker worked as a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tucson, Ariz., from 2012 to 2016, according to his LinkedIn page. And prior to that, he served as an assistant public defender in Pima County, Ariz.
Decker so far is the only challenger to emerge against incumbent Kevin Barton, who won over 68% of the vote in 2018. Barton then faced off against defense lawyer Max Wall, whose campaign accepted over a half-million dollars from the George Soros-affiliated Oregon Law and Justice PAC, WW previously reported.
Barton also raised sizable donations during the 2018 race, including $100,000 from Nike co-founder Phil Knight and over $150,000 from ActionPAC—a political action committee funded by Henry Swigert of ESCO Corp.
ActionPAC appears keen on keeping Barton in office. Last month, state records show, the PAC donated $10,000 to the incumbent’s campaign. To date, Barton has raised just over $40,000, including $1,000 from the campaign of former state Rep. Knute Buehler, $1,000 from Oregon District Attorneys Association executive director Michael Wu, and $5,000 from Washington County Chief Deputy DA Jeff Lesowski.
Decker has raised about $13,700 to date. That includes $500 from former U.S. Attorney for Arizona John Leonardo and $250 from Campos’ campaign. His endorsers include Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beaty, Beaverton City Councilor Nadia Hasan, and Hillsboro City Councilor Olivia Alcaire.
If Decker’s campaign website is any indicator, criminal justice reform will likely be a sticking point between the candidates.
“Publicly claiming to embrace reform efforts, but obstructing them behind closed doors, the current District Attorney is out of step with community needs,” Decker’s website reads. “It’s time to put the history of injustice allowed by the current office in the past and move towards the future of public safety in Washington County.”