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Goetz, McDonald compete to be first new Oakland prosecutor since '08

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Pontiac — For the first time in 12 years, Oakland County voters will be electing a new person to serve as county prosecutor Nov. 3.

With longtime Prosecutor Jessica Cooper losing in August's primary, come January either Democrat Karen McDonald or Republican Lin Goetz will take over an office that employs a staff of 170 and has a $23 million budget.

Karen McDonald, left, and Lin Goetz, right.

McDonald, who defeated Cooper in the Democratic primary, is a former judge and worked as an assistant Oakland County prosecutor from 1999 to 2004, leaving four years before Cooper took office. McDonald was elected to the Oakland County circuit bench in 2012, re-elected in 2018, and resigned in April 2019 to run for prosecutor.

Goetz is a Lake Orion attorney with 28 years of experience in criminal law both as an assistant prosecutor and a defense attorney.

If elected, McDonald promises to work to revamp the cash bail system, which she says unfairly punishes poor defendants, while Goetz says one of her first orders of business would be to install a Public Integrity Unit to look at wrongful conviction claims.

"The bail system puts people who don’t have money in jail, and lets people who have money get out," McDonald said. "That doesn’t make us safer. If you're a threat to the community, you shouldn't get bail. But if both of us are arrested for driving without a license and you have the $200 to get out and I don't, how is that fair?"

Goetz said she'd take the opposite approach to bonds.

"If you look at what's happening in New York, they let a lot of people out on no bond and they went out and committed more crimes," she said. "My focus is on the safety of the community, and that means keeping good law and order."

During the primary campaign, Goetz said her goals include improving communication from the prosecutor’s office, boosting staff morale and enhancing training of assistant prosecutors. She also said she would add a public integrity unit “to ensure victims know the right individual is in custody for the crime that harmed them and increasing efficiency.”

McDonald has said she “has seen how the current prosecutor’s office is failing Oakland County residents, especially poor people and people of color, and (am) dedicated to ending mass incarceration and creating a fairer system for all people.”

ghunter@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2134

Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN