Assistant Attorney General Paul Eckerstrom is being talked up as a candidate to run against Barbara Lawall for County Attorney. Eckerstrom had been talked about before, but the talk seems to be a bit more serious now.
Eckerstrom has worked both sides of the courtroom, as a public defender and as a prosecutor. He currently works in the Attorney General’s Southern Arizona office here in Tucson. His brother, Peter Eckerstrom, was appointed a judge on the court of appeals in 2003. He’s got some strong roots in the coummunity. His father, if I remember right, was a minister (thus the names Peter and Paul) who ran an off-campus hang out spot for students in the late 60’s. The cafe featured a number of performers, including a young Linda Ronstadt.
Eckerstrom has been involved in politics for years. He was a staffer for Bruce Babbitt’s presidential campaign back in 1988, working several Iowa counties for him. He supported Bill Bradley in 2000, but felt he had to be neutral in 2004 because of his chairmanship of the Pima County Democratic Party. It probably ticked him off to have to sit on the sidelines of that one.
He ticked off some activists when he recruited Nina Trasoff to run for city council when Steve Farley had already declared in that race. He was very active in Patty Weiss’s campaign for congress, and claimed some credit for encouraging her to run. I’m waiting to see if he gets Colleen Bagnall or Erica Hartquist to run for something.
There are a number of folks who have grievances against Lawall: there were some serious questions about the handling of the El Grande Market case, where false testimony may have been encouraged by prosecutors, and with the handling of the more recent murder of Dr. David Brian Stidham, where all maner of problems with personel in her office were revealed. There has also been criticism of the long standing (pre-dating Lawall) policy of “over charging” and not accepting plea agreements, which some say has led to expensive trials in cases that could have been settled without them. Finally, SEIU had some problems with Lawall’s interference with their efforts to organize county employees.
Talk has been that Lawall has already been talking to some of Eckerstrom’s supervisors, maybe trying to get him fired, maybe just trying to make his life difficult. Lawall’s supporters are already spreading the story that Eckerstrom has been too busy mucking around with local politics to do his job. Eckerstrom, however, has one of the largest case loads in the Southern Arizona office and is regarded by his colleagues (and most importantly, Terry Goddard) as a hard working prosecutor.
It remains to be seen whether all of these troubles add up to the number of votes necessary to displace Lawall. With Eckerstrom running, we are at least guaranteed that it won’t be a quiet campaign.