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St. Croix County DA: Nieskes defeats Yacoub

St. Croix County Deputy District Attorney Michael Nieskes reacts after seeing early vote totals that showed him with a heavy lead over Sarah Yacoub in the race for district attorney. (RiverTown Multimedia photo by Mike Longaecker)

A commanding lead appeared it would hold for Republican Michael Nieskes in the race for St. Croix County district attorney.

Nieskes led Democrat and fellow Hudson resident Sarah Yacoub 61-39 percent late Tuesday with more than 90 percent of precincts reporting.

He said his experience as a prosecutor helped put him over the top in the race.

“The fact that I had the background and the experience to do the job and I didn’t try to make outlandish claims” was what voters responded to, Nieskes said.

Yacoub issued a statement congratulating Nieskes on the win, saying, in part, that she hopes “he takes this opportunity to do better for our victim survivors of domestic violence and for families who have children battling addiction.”

Nieskes said he plans to work hard for St. Croix County.

“I’m going to protect the community and work hard every day for them,” he said.

The race determined who will succeed Eric Johnson as St. Croix County’s DA -- a role he has held since 1989.

Nieskes, a 61-year-old veteran prosecutor who served as Racine County’s district attorney and a state judge before coming to St. Croix County, defeated two other Republicans -- public defender Donna Burger and Pierce County Assistant District Attorney Rory O’Sullivan -- on the way to the general election.

Nieskes, who serves as deputy DA under Johnson, campaigned as the veteran prosecutor behind 33 years of experience trying cases. He identified substance abuse as the chief problem in the county and outlined a multi-pronged plan to tackle cases stemming from those issues.

He said that, if elected, he would continue his role as a hands-on courtroom prosecutor and would push for savings in the office by moving toward a more paperless records system.

Yacoub, a 32-year-old defense attorney, advanced to the general election without a primary challenger. She built her campaign largely in resistance to the status quo in the DA’s office through an active Facebook presence, but also by outlining a multi-tiered approach to prosecution; she advocated additional courts for drug offenders, among other things.

A former prosecutor herself while living in Los Angeles, Yacoub also called for culling the ranks of assistant DAs in St. Croix County, saying a smaller staff could handle the caseload. She also called for a “pre-filing” diversion program for young offenders and veterans.

The race was not without controversy. That included a recent court hearing where Yacoub served as defense attorney in a case prosecuted by the St. Croix County DA’s office. During the hearing, Yacoub offered sharp criticism of prosecution methods by the DA’s office and claimed Nieskes was politicizing the case -- involving a man accused of possessing child porn -- in the public arena. St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Michael Waterman denied Yacoub’s motions seeking to move the case out of the county and to remove the DA’s office from prosecution.

Yacoub, who also unsuccessfully accused Johnson in an ethics complaint of allowing his staff to campaign on the job for Nieskes, took fire from critics after it was revealed she had been arrested in California and had been accused of prosecutorial misconduct by a California appeals court.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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