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Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall won't seek 7th term

Barbara LaWall, first elected as the top prosecutor in Pima County in 1996, announced Friday that she won't seek another term in 2020. She'll serve through the end of next year.

"After more than four decades as a prosecutor, and nearly 24 as your elected county attorney, I have decided that I will retire at the end of my sixth term," she said Friday afternoon. "I will not be seeking a seventh term."

The announcement, which makes the Democrat the latest longtime county official to decline to seek re-election, set off immediate speculation about who would run for the seat.

"I want to thank the voters of Pima County who have repeatedly put their faith in me and elected me to office six times," LaWall said in a late-afternoon news release. "Serving the people of Pima County as county attorney is an absolute privilege and has been the highest honor of my life. I have done my best every day to work on your behalf to protect the public safety of this community and pursue justice and fairness in our criminal justice system."

Despite being a Democrat, LaWall has faced criticism from progressives over her "tough on crime" stance on many issues, including prosecution of minor drug offenses and resulting jail crowding, and in the early years of her time as county attorney, bringing criminal charges against small-time bad-check writers. LaWall was challenged in the 2016 primary by county Public Defender Joel Feinman, winning with 58 percent of the vote. No Republican ran for the seat in that election; the Green Party's Cynthia Tuell trailed in the general election.

Feinman said Friday that he was considering another run for the office. Under county HR policies, he'd have to take a leave of absence from his appointed post to pursue the elected position. Among others rumored to be prepared to run for county attorney are her Chief Trial Counsel Jonathan Mosher, and other local prosecutors.

A former state assistant attorney general, Mike Jette, took a stab at the elected job in 2012 as a Republican. Jette, now a federal prosecutor, may switch parties and try again, county sources said.

A 2016 investigation by TucsonSentinel.com led to the Tucson Unified School District print shop to halt working for political candidates, after our report that LaWall had used TUSD's facility to produce election materials for years.

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"This has not been an easy decision for me," LaWall said. "However, I am truly looking forward to retirement, to having the time and freedom to pursue my personal interests and to spend more time with my family, my grandsons and my friends."

"I also want to acknowledge all the dedicated women and men in my office with whom I have worked over the years," she said. "Working for more than four decades alongside an incredibly talented group of professionals, including all of law enforcement, to deliver justice to the people of Pima County has been a richly rewarding experience."

More from LaWall's announcement:

Together we have been leaders in change, smart reform and a voice for justice for so many. The people in the County Attorney's Office have become my second family, and they have generously rewarded me with their friendship, their loyalty and great kindness. I feel so very privileged to be part of such an incredibly committed and dedicated team.

I am also very proud of the many innovative crime prevention, diversion and public outreach programs we have created and implemented. Fighting for justice for victims of crime, being the voice for the vulnerable and voiceless, pursuing an unwavering commitment to public safety by holding accountable those who commit crimes and harm, threaten and endanger others have been the hallmarks of my time in this office. I am profoundly proud of this legacy.

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Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.com

LaWall in 2012.