Write-in candidate faces off against incumbent in Custer County prosecutor race
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CHALLIS — Incumbent Custer County Prosecutor Justin Oleson is being challenged by write-in candidate Jason Mackrill for this during this year’s general election.
Oleson is the Republican nominee. Mackrill is a member of the Republican party, but is running as an Independent. Both faced off during the primary election to become the Republican nominee with Oleson edging out Mackrill by 86 votes. Mackrill decided to not let the loss stop him from campaigning as a write-in candidate.
To learn more about the candidate’s platform, EastIdahoNews.com sent the same eight questions to each candidate. Their unedited responses, listed below, were required to be 250 words or less.
Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
Mackrill: I am a fourth-generation Idahoan, a Christian, and a Constitutional Conservative. I am a solo practitioner at my law office, LAWMAN LLC, in Challis. My wife, Alisha, is also an Idaho native. We love to hunt and fish, and we are ardent supporters of the 2nd Amendment. I graduated from Fruitland High School in 1993, attended Treasure Valley Community College, University of Idaho, Boise State University, and Concordia Law School. I served proudly as a Boatswain’s Mate in the U.S. Coast Guard from 2000-2004, in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Newport, Oregon, where my primary duties were search and rescue and law enforcement. Before moving to Challis, Alisha and I lived in the Treasure Valley, but it grew way too much for our liking. We chose Challis because we prefer the small-town life, and Challis is still much like Idaho was when we were younger. We brought my mom up here to live with us so she can relax and enjoy her retirement. Regarding volunteering, I have served as the Chairman and/or Co-Chairman of the Idaho State Friends of NRA and Weiser Friends of NRA chapters. I’ve been a life member of the NRA since 1993. I am a life member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and helped get the Boise State chapter started in 2009-2010. I’ve also served on both Washington and Gem County’s Sheriff’s Posse/Search and Rescue teams and many other volunteer organizations, including the Scottish American Athletic Association, which hosts Scottish Highland Games.
Oleson: I am a fifth generation Eastern Idahoan and my grandchildren are seventh generation. My family has been in Eastern Idaho since my Great-Great-Grandparents settled here around 1865. I grew up ranching, farming and worked in construction during college.
I attended the University of Idaho where I received a bachelor degree in Animal Science. In May 2001 I received my Juris Doctor along with a Minor in Range Management. I received passing Bar results on Sep. 11, 2001 and then worked as a deputy prosecutor for Bannock County.
In 2003, I was hired by Blaser, Sorensen and Hansen, Chtd. I became a partner in 2004, which is now Blaser, Oleson and Lloyd, Chartered. I have practiced in numerous legal areas including criminal, family law, real estate, probates, bankruptcy, personal injury and collections. I have extensive trial experience, including, jury trials and several murder trials.
I have been licensed to practice law in the Nez Perce Tribal Court since 2000, State of Idaho and Federal Court since 2001, and Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Court since 2004. I’m a member of the Idaho Trial Lawyers Association, and a member of the Board of Directors from 2005 to 2009 and from 2017 to current.
I have been a member of the Elks Lodge #1416 for 17 years, during which I was an officer for 5 years. I have also been on the Board of Directors for the Eastern Idaho State Fair since 2011.
I was appointed as Custer County Prosecutor in January 2016.
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
Oleson: Protecting the rights of our citizens under our Federal and State Constitutions.
Having practiced law for over 20 years and helping people get justice, what is rightfully theirs and not getting taken advantage of. Meeting all the different people I have met over my career, listening to their stories, hardships and problems than attempting to help them better their situations with all the legal means that are available.
Mackrill: Serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, where I received many awards, medals, and letters of commendation. Most recently, finishing law school and passing the bar exam on the first shot. I’ve worked jobs in many other fields and have earned a lot of accolades and awards. What I am most proud of in my life, and what has been one of the biggest blessings in my life is my ability to create and maintain lasting relationships with people. I am outgoing, friendly, I genuinely care about people’s well-being, and I love to hear and be part of their stories and have them be a part of mine. This ability to create relationships is relevant to my campaign for County Prosecutor because it will help me establish good rapport with the accused and their counsel. I believe this is important because it will allow me to achieve quicker resolutions for the county, in turn saving the county time and money.
Why are you a member of the Republican party? Briefly explain your political platform.
Mackrill: Another reason we chose Custer County is that the people here are constitutionally conservative. That is what true Republicans should be, and that is why I am a Republican. I am a Republican because our party exists to preserve the Constitution as it was intended, which in turn protects the citizens from the government. You can read the Republican Party platform at www.gop.gov.
Oleson: As a Republican should be. Conservative and actually for limited government. I am not like the rest of the republicans that believe in spending public monies, nor trying to push laws to make a bigger government to control the citizens with their personal agendas.
Government should not be in the business of trying to control the people. Government should not be trying to control your ability to worship, race, sex, sexual orientation, reproductive choices, associations, business, or anything else. It should be paying for roads, schools, and to protect our country for foreign enemies and protect our trade with foreign countries.
Our Constitution was originally designed by the framers to protect the people from the government. Even our government become its own worst enemies because of who is actually part of it, and it always gets bigger, more wasteful, and more oppressive.
What are the greatest challenges facing your county?
Oleson: Right now the greatest challenge is the Covid19 issue. People have lost their lives, businesses, jobs, homes and almost everything due to the major panic that was set off by this pandemic. I do not believe the Country should have shut down like it did.
We should have take precautions with the vulnerable, compromised, young and old and treated it just like all viruses that we have in the past. Human populations have, and will always have, viruses sweep through the populations. But when a medical condition becomes political and based upon receiving federal funding, the panic is worse that the
The ongoing greatest challenge that our county continues to face is the lack of an adequate jail to house people that committed crimes and are ordered to be incarcerated. The County Commissioners and others have been working on different solutions for several years but so far the majority of the citizens and the City of Challis have not been supportive of any new facilities.
Mackrill: I believe the greatest challenges facing our county are the lack of involvement of much of our citizenry, the persisting drug problem, and the lack of an adequate jail facility. I’ve been told by many folks in Custer County that they feel disenfranchised by some of their elected servants. Whether elected or not, I plan to try to get as many people civically involved as possible. The towns in our county are small and filled with good salt-of-the-earth people. To improve our current jail or to build a new facility, we need to work together as citizens of a county to figure out how best to do that. And I will do work diligently with the citizens and the Sheriff’s office to try to eradicate the drug problem.
How is your party’s ideology better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than those of your competitor?
Mackrill: My competitor is also a Republican, so I imagine our political ideologies would be mostly aligned. That said, one advantage I believe I do have over my competitor is being a full-time resident of Custer County. My family and I moved to Challis from the Treasure Valley so I could run for Prosecuting Attorney, open a private law practice, and make Custer County our home. We chose to move here and to become a part of the community—to get involved with the community. I have a vested interest in serving my community, being a good neighbor, and a good steward. My competitor, who currently serves as an appointed, not elected, Prosecutor, by his own admission, is a resident of Bingham County. He lives in Blackfoot. Custer County is not his home, but it is mine. And I will fight to protect my county and my neighbors and keep them safe.
Oleson: I am not entirely clear what my competitor ideology is. He has no experience in this position. He would face large hurdles on a daily basis in this position because of his lack of knowledge and experience.
For example, a person who has been a mechanic for 20 years can do the job far more efficient than a 16-year-old kid with an owner’s manual.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
Oleson: As a prosecutor, political views should have no involvement in representing the constituents of differing views. A prosecutor represents the county as a whole which includes all its citizens.
Mackrill: The Prosecuting Attorney is a function of the Judicial Branch, so it is politically neutral. Three of its primary functions are punishment, deterrence, and rehabilitation. The end game is to help keep the county as crime free as possible. The Prosecuting Attorney also serves in a legal advisor capacity to the county and defends the county in civil suits. The function of any attorney is to understand, interpret, and apply the law to the matter at hand. To best serve the constituency, I will perform all of the above roles to the best of my ability. I will also make myself available to the people and actively seek their input. I want my neighbors to know they can approach me with their questions and concerns, whether it be in person, on the phone, or via e-mail.
What trait, attribute, or experience do you possess that best qualifies you to manage public employees and handle public funding?
Mackrill: The traits I possess that qualify me to manage public employees and handle public funding are my ability to create relationships, my work ethic, my desire to learn, and my character. The Custer County Prosecuting Attorney has only one employee, a paralegal, and she is excellent at what she does. I have had the opportunity to get acquainted with her personally and professionally, and I believe that she and I will serve the county well together. Being an excellent steward of the county’s financial resources will always be one of my top priorities.
Oleson:Again, I have 20 years of experience practicing in all areas of the law. I am also a very successful businessman and have operated and managed employees, and funding for decades.
I have been on the board of directors, and an officer of several organizations for over 15 years that require the experience, talent, and ability to manage employees and funds.
What are your views regarding the role of the media in covering your county? How can you best work with local reporters to ensure coverage of the issues?
Oleson: The local media in Custer County has done a good job covering the county. I believe that I have a good relationship with the local media in ensuring that the correct facts are published. In the event that there are inaccuracies I try and work with the local reporters to make accurate corrections.
Mackrill: I believe the media is essential to report the news to the people, but it needs to be held accountable to the whole truth and accuracy, not just sensationalized pieces of the news. I hope to establish a good working relationship with local reporters based on mutual respect and candor with the hope that when the time comes for them to write their stories, they consider all the external factors, and endeavor to write the whole truth in its proper context, no matter how mundane those crucial details may appear.