Write-in effort against Mark Lindquist fails to gain traction

An effort to generate opposition to Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist’s re-election bid has stalled because the movement’s choice has said she can’t run.

Mary Robnett, who up until 2012 was one of Lindquist’s top lieutenants, told The News Tribune on Friday that her current employment with the state Attorney General’s Office precludes her candidacy.

Robnett joined the Attorney General’s Office in 2013 after a long tenure at the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, where she worked as Lindquist’s chief criminal deputy before resigning.

“I have been told I cannot declare myself a candidate,” Robnett said while waiting for a court hearing at the County-City Building in Tacoma. “I cannot run at this time.”

Alex Hays, Lindquist’s re-election chairman, said Monday the incumbent has “a lot of respect for Mary Robnett and wishes her great success at the Attorney General’s Office.”

Lindquist was out of town Monday. He emailed The News Tribune a comment.

“I'm proud of the work the Prosecutor’s Office has done for our community, particularly the vigorous prosecution of violent criminals,” he said. “I appreciate the strong bipartisan support I've received and look forward to serving another four years.”

No one filed to run against Lindquist in either the primary or general election. Any candidate challenging him at his point would have to run as a write-in. Lindquist was appointed in 2009 to replace Gerald Horne, who retired. He then won election to a four-year term in 2010, defeating former deputy prosecutor Bertha Fitzer.

Lloyd Bird, a board member of the Pierce County Deputy Sheriffs Guild, had championed Robnett as a write-in candidate. He said she called him over the weekend and asked him to stop campaigning for her.

“Mary called me last night and said, ‘Stop it,’ ” Bird said Monday. “She asked directly, so I said OK.”

Bird, who has 32 years of law enforcement experience, said he and others hoped to convince Robnett to challenge Lindquist because they’ve grown concerned with the direction the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has taken under his leadership.

“We need someone else at the top, and Mary Robnett has the credentials,” Bird said in an email Friday to The News Tribune. “She will do what is right. She cares about this community and will focus our resources on what is important.”

Pierce County resident Barry Thornton filed a report with the state Public Disclosure Commission last week stating that he’d spent $735 to buy yard signs for a Robnett write-in campaign.

The signs — with the sentence, “A change is needed!” — appeared recently on some street corners around Pierce County.

Efforts to reach Thornton for comment were unsuccessful Monday.

Lindquist and his office have been the subject of some controversy in recent years.

Three years ago, prosecutors sought to have criminal charges filed against a sheriff’s deputy who’d been accused of making a death threat against Robnett. The Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office declined to file charges, and Robnett left county employment shortly thereafter.

Earlier this year, The News Tribune reported about the legal imbroglio involving Lindquist’s office and another sheriff’s deputy who accused the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office of trying to ruin his reputation.

While the county fended off the deputy’s lawsuit, arguments remain over whether he should pay sanctions and the county’s attorney’s fees.

Lindquist also is fighting the public release of his cellphone records, saying making the records public would violate his right to privacy. The Washington State Court of Appeals has ruled some of the records might be subject to disclosure if they pertain to public business. That fight continues.

Hays said the fact that no one filed to run against Lindquist shows most people think he’s doing a good job.

“That being said, you can never make 100 percent of the people happy,” he said.