Prosecutor launching campaign to keep post
As if the Kobe Bryant rape case isn’t enough, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert will be running for election while he prosecutes the NBA star.
Hurlbert, who was appointed district attorney by Gov. Bill Owens in Dec., 2002, will run to keep his position as the chief criminal prosecutor in the Fifth Judicial District, which includes Eagle, Summit, Lake and Clear Creek counties.
Hurlbert, 35, a Republican who lives Breckenridge replaced former district attorney Mike Goodbee, a Democrat who left Eagle County for the Attorney General’s Office in Denver. Hurlbert is seeking his first four-year term in office.
“I decided to run because, although I have accomplished a lot in the short time I have been district attorney, I still feel there’s more I can accomplish and benefit the people of Eagle County,” said Hurlbert, who will officially announce his candidacy on Thursday at a restaurant in Edwards.
Hurlbert said he doesn’t know yet if he will face a Republican opponent, which would force a primary in August.
Debbie Marquez a chairwoman of the Eagle County Democratic Party, said there would likely be a candidate from her party to oppose Hurlbert.
“The issue has come up during several discussions,” Marquez said. “The Democrats have made an effort on a state-wide level to encourage participation and people to come forward, to bring the Democratic message and run for office.”
Since he took office, Hurlbert has faced several challenges, including a wave of departing prosecutors that started in the summer of 2002. He’s also dealt with the Bryant case, which has attracted national and worldwide media coverage since the summer. Lakers’ star Bryant is accused of raping a 19-year-old Eagle County woman in July.
In addition to the Bryant case, Hurlbert said he has two big murder cases coming this year – a murder trial in Breckenridge in June and another murder case recently filed in Clear Creek county.
“In terms of the good things that are happening in the district, we have reached a bit of stability in terms of staff,” Hurlbert said. “We’ve also got some big convictions, including a murder case in Breckenridge.”
The prosecutor’s office has also focused on domestic violence, he said.
“We started the domestic violence diversion program for people who have non-aggravated cases so they can get them resolved quickly and we’re in the process of doing a domestic violence fast track program, which will speed up the process, providing a better chance that that person will not offend again,” he said.
Though he has made strides to get the Eagle County Attorney’s Office staff issues solved, Hurlbert said there’s still work to be done.
“We also need to get everybody’s salaries up to a competitive level,” he said. Hurlbert, as the Fifth Judicial District’s chief prosecutor earns $80,000 a year while a deputy district attorney’s salary starts at $39,000, he said.
Starting a program in which the Department of Social Services, law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office and school officials can share information more freely are among his goals for the future, Hurlbert said.
“For a district attorney, we need someone with experience,” said Hurlbert, who has been a prosecutor for 10 years, beginning his career in Eagle County in 1994 as a deputy district attorney. “We’re getting bigger cases, such as the Bryant case. You need someone with experience and that is where I fit in.”
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or at email@example.com.