Alameda County voters’ choice for District Attorney in 2022 will make history, no matter who wins. All four candidates have a chance to become the first African-American to hold the title of the county’s top prosecutor.
In selecting a successor for retiring Nancy O’Malley, who has held the post since 2009, voters can choose between two veteran prosecutors from within the District Attorney’s Office, a former San Francisco prosecutor and fighter pilot, and a civil rights attorney who formerly defended the accused.
All four are formidable candidates: Terry Wiley, O’Malley’s top assistant and her choice to succeed her; Jimmie Wilson, a plumber turned 17-year veteran prosecutor; Seth Steward, chief aide to Oakland Councilman Dan Kalb; and Pamela Price, who received 42% of the vote when she ran against O’Malley in 2018.
Each said Alameda County requires criminal justice reform and has an array of endorsements. Unless one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote June 7, the top two finishers will face off in November to determine who should run the office with a budget of about $90 million and about 430 employees, including around 150 deputy DAs and 60 inspectors.
Our choice is Wiley, a 32-year veteran of the office who offers experience that separates him from the pack. Wiley worked his way to the top, gaining extensive experience in prosecuting cases, while leading the felony trial team with a 93% conviction rate. He also runs the agency’s human resources department and trains colleagues in diversity, equity and inclusion policies.
In championing the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Expungement Program, he ensured the records of hundreds of people in Alameda County were cleared. He also created programs to keep people out of prison and currently serves as the Director of Human Resources at the DA’s office. Due to his work, Wiley received the National Bar Association's Heman Sweatt Award for Civil Rights.
Wiley’s policies include not prosecuting teenagers as adults, except in severe circumstances for 17.5-year-olds. He led the Juvenile Division, addressing ethnic disparities in juveniles in custody and worked to cut youth incarceration rates, while also helping to create the “Know Your Rights, It Can Save Your Life” program for middle school students.
While he has clearly worked to develop programs for those who commit nonviolent crimes because of mental illness, addiction and poverty, he hasn’t shied away from prosecuting murderers and police officers. His goal is to create a balanced system where violent offenders are held accountable for their crimes. He said he is willing to file cases against police officers when necessary, such as when he handled the case against Oakland officers in the infamous “Riders” scandal.
To top it off, Wiley is a member of the American Bar Association’s Criminal Standards Committee; a former member of the State Bar of California Board of Trustees; past vice president of the National Bar Association; past president of the Charles Houston Bar Association; past chairman of the State Bar of California Criminal Law Section; and past president of the Bay Area Black Prosecutors Association.
Supported by O’Malley, the Alameda County Prosecutors’ Association and the Alameda County Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Association, Wiley’s endorsements include U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, who represents the Tri-Valley in Congress; Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan; Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf; and Tri-Valley councilmembers Kathy Narum and Jack Balch of Pleasanton, and Jean Josey of Dublin.
He’s also the choice of four civil rights attorneys, including Benjamin Crump, who represents George Floyd’s family.
Sean Steward and Jimmie Wilson both have good ideas for reform, but lack Wiley’s experience. Price’s ideas are noteworthy, including calling for outside investigations of police shootings and not prosecuting teens as adults, but she, too, lacks the appropriate experience, as she has never prosecuted a case.
Wiley’s values and vast experience make him our choice to succeed O’Malley.