Here are the Republicans running to become the Bannock County prosecutor - East Idaho News
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Here are the Republicans running to become the Bannock County prosecutor

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POCATELLO — Two Republicans are competing for the party nomination for Bannock County prosecutor.

Ian Johnson and Erin Tognetti are both running on the Republican ticket to replace the current prosecutor, Stephen Herzog, who is not running for re-election. Jennifer Call, who is running for the position as a Democrat, doesn’t have a primary challenger. sent the same eight questions to each county candidate. Their responses, listed below, were required to be 250 words or less. is publishing the answers in their entirety, and without any grammatical or style editing.

The primary election is May 21.

Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.

Johnson: I was born in Pocatello and raised in the Idaho Falls area. I attended Ricks College and got a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice at Weber State University. I worked as a probation officer in Salt Lake City. I then attended law school at the University of Idaho. During this time I also served in the U.S. Naval Reserves.

Upon graduation I began my legal career here in Pocatello. I began working at the Bannock County Prosecutor’s Office. After a few years I decided to try my hand in the private practice world and spent several years at Merrill and Merrill, Chtd. where I began working in criminal defense. For a short time thereafter, I did insurance defense work for an Insurance Company at a firm in Salt Lake City and immediately realized I needed to be home in Pocatello. I then spent a short time with the Bannock County Public Defenders before joining the Legal Department at the City of Pocatello where I have been for over a decade.

I have extensive experience as a trial lawyer as a prosecutor, defense counsel and a civil litigator. I have worked extensively with victims of crime, most specifically victims of domestic violence. I understand the importance and delicacy of helping victims.

The most important part of my life is my family, my wife and I have raised our three sons here in Pocatello. Two of our sons are now starting their own families here. Family is everything to me.

Tognetti: I was born and raised in Northern California, living in North Lake Tahoe and the foothills outside of Sacramento for most of my life. After graduating from Sacramento State University, I worked in broadcast television for a decade before going to law school.

After passing the California bar in 2012, I worked with a civil firm for six years, practicing many areas of civil law, but my goal was to become a prosecutor.

In 2018, I accepted a job as a Deputy District Attorney with El Dorado County. Because of my years as a practicing lawyer, I began prosecuting mostly felony offenses from the outset.

While I loved the job, I no longer recognized the state I had grown up in. Legislators in California seemed to be dismantling the criminal justice system – leaving prosecutors with fewer and fewer tools to get justice for victims and protect their communities.

In 2020, my husband and I bought a piece of land in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, with an eye toward building a home in the future. By April of 2021, my husband and I made the move to Pocatello, and I began my job as a Senior Deputy Prosecutor for Bannock County. I immediately took over one of the weightiest caseloads – cases involving sexual abuse of children, rape, and other violent offenses.

I now live in Lava Hot Springs with my husband of nearly 27 years and our daughter, Alexa. Our older daughter, Sydney, and her husband live in Idaho Falls.

Why are you seeking political office? Briefly explain your political platform.

Tognetti: I am passionate about the duty the Prosecutor’s Office has to fight for justice for victims of crime, work to make our community safer, and support our law enforcement officers.

I have proven myself to be both compassionate and determined in seeking justice for victims. I have tried nearly twenty cases in my three years with the office – refusing to make plea agreements that did not achieve just resolutions and I have vigorously advocated for substantial prison sentences for child abusers.

Because I am already part of the Prosecutor’s Office, I recognize the challenges our office is facing – as are many prosecutor’s offices across the country – in recruiting attorneys to serve in these critical roles. To that end, I have already begun outreach efforts to law schools in the hopes of inspiring young lawyers to pursue careers in criminal justice.

I believe, as the elected prosecutor, I could foster a culture of respect for our responsibility to victims of crime and to our community. I will hold the line.

Johnson: The decision to run for the office of Bannock County Prosecutor reflects a profound understanding of the shortcomings within the criminal justice system and a determination to rectify them. My drive arises from an aspiration to protect the vulnerable, advocate for justice, and ensure the innocent are shielded from harm. I have also always been an advocate and proponent for law enforcement, without them a prosecutor is effectively useless. My twenty plus years of legal experience has provided me with invaluable insights into the complexities of the legal system and the challenges faced by victims and innocent individuals. This unique perspective equips me with the empathy and understanding necessary to navigate the intricacies of prosecuting cases with compassion and integrity. I have an unwavering dedication to fighting injustice and know I can affect justice. My legal skills coupled with an empathetic approach, make me a formidable advocate for victims of all crimes and a beacon of hope for those in need. I possess the knowledge and skill to uphold the principles of justice and safeguard the rights of individuals.

What areas in your county need immediate improvement? What actions will you take to address those needs?

Johnson: As the Bannock County Prosecutor, the pursuit of justice is probably the most important area of focus. The best way to achieve that is to help the entire office to work as a team with the goals of justice, protection of citizens and remedying injustice to aid those that are victims of crime. There are already great attorneys in this office as recently seen in the Compher murder trial conviction. With stronger leadership and increased unity, I know that even greater things can come from the Bannock County Prosecutor’s Office. One step will be a better division of labor regarding the handling of criminal cases. This will include cross training of all attorneys and staff in all matters that come through the office. My goal is for every attorney to be prepared to litigate any type of case that comes into the office. By restricting specific case loads to specific attorneys there will always be the potential for problems to arise should someone become unavailable to perform their duties, not to mention the failure to discover who may be better suited for certain cases. I also want to increase the communication and work the sheriff’s office, ultimately there should be an attorney regularly staffed at the Sheriff’s Department to address immediate questions or legal issues that occur during daily operations.

Tognetti: I have already changed the way child abusers are dealt with in our community, settling for nothing less than substantial prison sentences for their abusers. I believe that drug trafficking remains a substantial area that also requires a similar zero-tolerance policy immediately.

What are the greatest long term challenges facing people in your county? What is your plan to meet those challenges?

Tognetti: While the hope is that a zero-tolerance policy for drug traffickers would make an impact, the results will not be immediate. But, with a continual policy of harsh prosecution for drug traffickers, we can ultimately deter traffickers from traveling through Bannock County.

Another long-term challenge we face is domestic violence. Domestic violence is pervasive and destructive in our County, yet it remains among the most difficult of crimes to prosecute, in large part, because of the power and control abusers exert over their victims. Breaking the cycle of violence is a complex issue because we are regularly opposed by the victims themselves. This is an incredibly difficult issue, but one that needs to be addressed and made a priority by the Prosecutor’s Office. By providing continual support and resources to victims of domestic violence, we may prevent them from – out of necessity – returning to their abuser.

Johnson: The greatest long-term challenges for a community lie in balancing criminal justice issues and ensuring the safety of its citizens, all while guaranteeing effective sentencing in the criminal justice system. One critical aspect is balancing sentencing policies that focus on rehabilitation and punishment, thus reducing recidivism rates and promoting community reintegration. Additionally, implementing evidence-based policing strategies and enhancing community-police relations can foster trust and collaboration, leading to more effective crime prevention efforts. Investing in programs that address root causes of crime such as poverty, lack of education, and mental health issues can also play a significant role in reducing criminal activity. Furthermore, promoting restorative justice practices can facilitate healing and reconciliation between victims and offenders where possible. Encouraging open communications with the community can ultimately contribute to safer and more cohesive communities. Overall, meeting these challenges requires a multifaceted approach that prioritizes fairness, accountability, and the well-being of all community members.

How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views? How will you communicate directly with constituents?

Johnson: At its core the Bannock County Prosecutor is a really a non-partisan position. The Prosecutor is the chief law enforcement officer and attorney for Bannock County. This role is unlike the typical role of an attorney by being an advocate for a client, a prosecutor is a minister of justice with the specific duty to ensure justice is served. There can be no viewing the citizens of Bannock County in any varied manner. As the elected prosecutor I will represent everyone in the county with the common goal of making sure justice is served, the innocent and victims are protected and helping law enforcement make the community safe. I have made a goal in my campaign to meet with anyone that wishes to talk regardless of party affiliation or political ideology. Everyone in this county deserves to be treated fairly and shown respect and I will do that.

Tognetti: I have long felt that the position of Prosecutor has nothing to do with politics and should not be a partisan position. This Office’s job is to uphold the law, fight for victims, and ensure cases are prosecuted to just resolutions. I believe, regardless of political party, the community would agree with this position.

Given the nature of criminal prosecution, there will always be information that cannot be shared with the public, but much of what we do is done in open court and, in my time with the office, I have kept strong lines of communication open with local media so that important and relevant information about cases is shared with the public.

What parts of the county budget could use more funding? Where are places in the budget that cuts could be made?

Tognetti: Unfortunately, I do believe that the Prosecutor’s Office is sorely in need of more funding so that we can remain a competitive employer against other counties. Because attorneys can earn substantially more in the private sector, we need to be competitive against other prosecutor’s offices so that we can attract new lawyers inclined to pursue a career in criminal prosecution.

Johnson: The Bannock County Sheriff’s department. Law enforcement is a difficult career and has changed dramatically in recent years. Those that commit themselves to serving their community make sacrifices that most people will never see or even understand. This frontline for Bannock County deserves more funding.

Both the Prosecutor’s Office and the Public Defender’s office are woefully understaffed. I know this will sound self-serving but one of the reasons for this is the salary that the attorneys are paid is far below market average. There are exceptional attorneys in both offices that do the work they do out of a sense of duty, but they deserve to be better compensated for that work. It also makes it difficult to recruit people to work when there are better paying jobs elsewhere doing similar work.

As far as where the cuts could be made, the recent decision by county commissioners not to pursue a forensics lab seems to be a great source of funding to improve different areas withing the county infrastructure.

What is the role of local media in your community? How can county officials work to have a better relationship with the media?

Johnson: Local media is an invaluable tool to share information with the community regarding the pursuit of justice and the ongoings of legal matters pertaining to the county. A relationship should exist that provides information to the community regarding the handling of cases and issues that affect the safety of the community. When appropriate the prosecutor’s office should serve as a conduit of information and not a platform to brag about individual activities. While also remembering that it is important the rights of victims and those within the criminal justice system must also be protected by both the prosecutor’s office and the media.

Tognetti: Because of the high-profile nature of my caseload, I have already fostered a relationship with local media. Through this symbiotic relationship, I trust them to be sensitive and responsible in protecting the anonymity of child victims and I respect their intent of providing sufficient information to the community regarding dangerous individuals in case there are additional victims that we are unaware of. This mutual respect is critical so that the community can be informed and children can be protected.

Voter turnout and participation continues to be low in Idaho. What efforts can be made to stimulate greater voter involvement in elections and government?

Tognetti: I feel that people have developed a general distrust of political figures on a national level and that has trickled down to state and local politics. If voters trust a candidate to actually make a difference, they will be more incentivized to vote. This can only be done through honesty and transparency.

Johnson: To enhance voter turnout and engagement, implementing comprehensive civic education programs in schools can instill the importance of voting from an early age. Simplifying voter registration processes, making them accessible online, and offering registration opportunities at various public locations can also remove barriers to participation. Lastly, fostering community engagement through grassroots initiatives, such as town hall meetings, candidate forums, and voter education campaigns, can empower citizens to take an active role in shaping their democracy.