Republican Attorney General candidate Reagan Dunn said enforcing cleanup commitments at Hanford will be one his top priorities if elected to replace Rob McKenna in November.
McKenna opted not to seek another term as attorney general and instead is running for governor. That left the field open, and Dunn and Democrat Bob Ferguson -- both members of the King County Council -- emerged as the top two contenders for the job after the Aug. 7 primary.
Dunn told the Herald during a recent Tri-City campaign visit that he has connections to Hanford through his late stepfather, Keith Thomson, the former Fluor president. During his tenure almost half of the K Basins' 2,300 tons of spent nuclear fuel were moved to a safer location and significant amounts of plutonium were neutralized at the Plutonium Finishing Plant.
Dunn said that through Thomson he gained an understanding and perspective about Hanford's nuclear waste and that means he'll be diligent in continuing McKenna's efforts to restart work toward a repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev., which the Obama administration has shut down.
Hanford had planned to send its high-level radioactive waste there once it is vitrified.
"We've got to clean it up," Dunn said. "I will fight with every bit of my skills to make sure the cleanup process moves forward."
The Attorney General's Office has been a key player, along with Gov. Chris Gregoire's office, in the Yucca Mountain efforts and in enforcing the Tri-Party Agreement, which sets forth legally binding deadlines for Hanford cleanup.
Before serving on the King County Council, Dunn spent a number of years working in government as an assistant U.S. attorney in Seattle for the Terrorism and Violent Crimes Unit and General Crimes Unit, a special assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., and southern Florida, senior counsel to the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys; and counsel to the assistant attorney general, Office of Justice Program in Washington, D.C.
He also worked as national coordinator for Project Safe Neighborhoods in the U.S. Department of Justice under President George W. Bush -- a job that had him tackling gun violence in the nation.
Dunn said he believes it's important to honor the right to bear arms in the Constitution, and that enforcement of existing gun laws is a better solution to gun violence than infringing that constitutional right.
"That requires a constant commitment to prosecuting guns (sold) illegally and those getting their hands on guns in violation of the law," he said.
Reducing gun violence also requires stopping cuts to law enforcement budgets and personnel, he said.
"The law enforcement presence doesn't exist -- that's why we're seeing crimes go up," Dunn said.
He'd like to see people charged with weapons violations prosecuted under federal laws, which tend to be tougher on gun crimes than state laws.
If elected, he'd like to assign three lawyers within the Attorney General's Office to work with the federal government on those prosecutions and combine state and federal resources.
"When we take state resources and prosecute through the federal system, we're putting bad guys away for longer periods of time," he said.
Another priority in his campaign include reintroducing anti-gang legislation proposed by McKenna along with ideas seen at the King County Council, including the creation of gang-free zones. Dunn also would like to see Yakima's experiment with a gang court brought to other jurisdictions.
"I'm going to watch that and see if it works," he said.
But he noted that prosecutions alone can't solve the state's gang problem.
"You have to look at intervention -- how to keep folks out of gangs in the first place," he said. "I am a big fan of school resource officers."
Dunn also supports early learning programs because they help reduce school drop-out rates, and drop-outs are more likely to end up in prison.
Dunn said he also is a proponent of open and transparent government and would like to create a division within the Attorney General's Office to focus on training public officials and employees on public records and open meeting laws, updating model rules for complying with the state's sunshine laws, and paring down exemptions to the public records law that allow documents to be withheld from the public.
"I will always err on the side of full disclosure," he said.
For more information about Dunn's campaign, go to www.reagandunn.com.