Golik on prosecutor race: ‘I knew I was going to win’

Victor cites experience, bipartisan support of many in crime-fighting arena

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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In the courtroom, Tony Golik has been on the frontline for years.

Most recently, he negotiated a plea deal last year that sent a registered sex offender who killed a 13-year-old girl to prison for life.

In April, he won a conviction in a 32-year-old murder case based solely on DNA evidence.

And this fall, he was the attorney fielding calls from media all over the country about the case of Bethany Storro, a Vancouver woman who staged an acid attack.

So it seemed only fitting that Wednesday, the day after the deputy prosecutor won a decisive victory over Brent Boger, it was business as usual and no surprise that he would lead the office come January.

“I knew I was going to win,” Golik, 43, said simply, sitting behind his desk in his office on the fourth floor of the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

That boast was not made out of arrogance, he said, but after weighing his ability to transcend partisan politics by sweeping endorsements from every law enforcement agency in Clark County.

While Boger was pushing his affiliation with the Republican Party to voters, Democrat Golik started a grass-roots effort of deputy prosecutors and police officers to reach voters with his message that he was the “proven crime fighter.” It apparently paid off.

“We worked really hard and knocked on about 10,000 doors,” he said. “When they talked about the Republican wave even a year ago, I knew I would have the crossover” votes.

Boger, a Vancouver assistant city attorney on the civil side, has never tried a criminal case but argued it wasn’t necessary for the job. Golik has been a deputy prosecutor for 15 years, including six years in the major crimes unit.

In Wednesday’s latest election results, Boger took 44.6 percent of the votes to Golik’s 55.3 percent. The Republican has said he won’t seek election ever again.

Criminal law experience is necessary, said Senior Deputy Prosecutor John Fairgrieve, who expressed relief about his colleague’s victory. Historically, deputy prosecutors don’t finalize plea negotiations or make final charging decisions on high-profile criminal cases without the elected prosecutor’s final say. So, Fairgrieve said, it’s imperative to have a prosecutor who understands criminal law.

“I think there’s certainly a degree of relief” among deputy prosecutors, Fairgrieve said Wednesday. “Attorneys were concerned about Boger’s qualifications … That transition for (Golik) is not going to be that much.”

Several attorneys in the 40-lawyer prosecutor’s office expressed relief.

“Everyone I’ve talked to is pleased about it,” said Bob Shannon, a 21-year veteran deputy prosecutor. “A lot of relief that the unknown is over.”

Already, Golik was meeting with retiring Prosecuting Attorney Art Curtis Wednesday morning to develop a transition plan. The biggest shift will be personnel, Golik said: Fairgrieve, a fellow major crimes deputy prosecutor, will be his chief deputy prosecutor and Scott Jackson, a deputy prosecutor in charge of the Children’s Justice Center, will be the chief criminal deputy prosecutor. E. Bronson Potter is keeping his post as chief civil deputy prosecutor.

Longtime Chief Deputy Prosecutor Curt Wyrick and Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Denny Hunter are retiring at the end of the year.

The shift in personnel will leave open positions in the major crimes unit and for Jackson’s position; Golik said he does not yet know who will fill those positions.

Besides that, Golik said he plans to start an elder abuse prosecution unit and emphasize prosecution of gang members, a burgeoning problem in Clark County. He also wants to increase the workload of middle management and continue to personally take several cases a year to trial himself.

“I want it to go from the top down,” he said.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jim David, who has been with the office for 26 years, doesn’t expect a big shake-up in morale or business. He sees Golik as much of the same mold of a prosecutor as Curtis, who held the position for 29 years.

“Art’s been a positive model for our community for 30 years,” David said. “And Tony has to fill some big shoes, but we all know that he’s going to do really well. We wouldn’t have backed him if we didn’t think he had the skill set.”