County prosecutor files to replace longtime District Attourney Bob Hermann
Washington County prosecutor Kevin Barton has announced he will run for Washington County District Attorney, hoping to repolace longtime DA Bob Hermann, who is retiring.
Standing outside the Washington County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Barton, the county's chief deputy district attorney, said his experience and successes in the courtroom is something he feels he can translate to the job of lead prosecutor, which is what pushed him to run to replace Hermann, who is not seeking re-election.
Hermann will step down after his fifth term is up, retiring after 42 years working with the county. Hermann started as a prosecutor in 1975 and has been Washington County's district attorney since 1999.
Barton has been with the office for more than 10 years, and many of his top achievements are connected to child abuse cases, including several high-profile convictions this year. A former Beaverton resident was sentenced to 44 years for raping a teen girl in March, and in 2016, Barton prosecuted a man for abusing his seven-month-old daughter, landing the girl in the hospital.
Barton takes the lead on the county's child abuse cases. Throughout his career, he said, he has often been faced with a similar question: How does he deal with some of the horrific things he learns?
When he first took over the child abuse team, Barton didn't have children of his own. Still, he recognized children were the most vulnerable victims the District Attorney's office sees, often presenting some of the most complicated cases.
"The entire case can rest on the testimony of a child," Barton told the Tribune earlier this week. "From my perspective, that's where the most good could be done because of the nature of the case. As time went on … it was really rewarding to make a huge difference in a child's life, in a family's life."
Now that he has kids, Barton said his perspective on child abuse cases hasn't changed, but that his context has deepened.
"The longer I've done cases, working as a prosecutor, the more empathetic I've become," Barton said. "I see people face challenges in life that are unique, and thank goodness I haven't had to face as many as people I interact with have faced. I have a sense of understanding; people who come in have huge issues in life."
Protecting victims of crime is a priority as well, but part of the DA's responsibility to the public is to engage the community before crimes are committed, according to Barton's platform.
Barton has advocated foran increased use of technology to track both criminals and victims. Barton helped to modernize how the county investigates digital evidence, but more work is needed, he said.
Barton has already drawn widespread support from county officials, including Hermann and Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett.
Police chiefs from every major Washington County city, including Hillsboro Police Chief Lee Dobrowolski, have given their endorsement, along with unions from city, county and state law enforcement.
All five Washington County commissioners, including outgoing chairman Andy Duyck, have endorsed Barton, as have Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle and Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway.
Barton said the support has been both overwhelming and humbling.
"I've never run for office before," he said. "This is the first and only political thing I've ever done, an initially reaching out to people I knew through work … the support has been tremendous."
Barton praised the community for supporting positive change in the justice system with programs helping people struggling with drugs or mental health.
Barton also weighed in on immigration and sanctuary cities. President Donald Trump has been critical of cities and counties that don't provide information on undocumented immigrant arrests. Washington County has been among the top targets at the White House.
Enforcing immigration laws isn't something the DA is charged with doing, Barton said, but he still sees a need to reassure area residents.
"One very important thing for us is we want everyone in the community — citizen or non-citizen, documented or undocumented — to feel as though they can pick up the phone and call 911 and be protected," Barton said. "If they're going through the court system as a witness or a victim, they should feel protected."