HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - This morning on the steps of the Henrico County Government Complex, Delegate Bill Janis officially launched his bid to become the county's next Commonwealth's Attorney.
Janis will face off against former Richmond Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Matt Geary in the November election.
RYAN: And Delegate Janis joins us now to talk about his campaign. Thank you to being here.
JANIS: Thanks for having me Ryan.
RYAN: First, let's talk about your resume. You don't have a ton of experience as a prosecutor and you're running to become the top prosecutor, aside for some time when you interned in a prosecutor's office. What would you say to people considering voting for you about that lack of prosecutor experience.
JANIS: I'll tell you, there's one absolute prerequisite you have to have if you're going to be a commonwealth's attorney, and that is you have to be somebody that the people trust. You have to have the judgment, the character, the self control, and the temperament to make some pretty tough decisions. The commonwealth's attorney in our system decides who gets charged and more importantly, who does not get charged with crime. The commonwealth's attorney makes one of the few life and death decisions in our system, which is the commonwealth's attorney makes the decision whether or not to charge the death penalty, so you have to have a commonwealth's attorney as someone of sound judgment, someone who's got character that's beyond question, and someone who is emotionally stable and is willing to make good decisions and has the proper temperament for the job.
RYAN: So you don't think necessary having the courtroom experience as a prosecutor is as important in this position?
JANIS: You're talking about 28 or 29 attorneys that work in that office, another nine victim-witness coordinators that work in the victim-witness office. The commonwealth's attorney is not just a super trial lawyer, they're not just a person who tries criminal trials. They are also a person who they certainly have to go to court and try cases, but he also have to manage an office that keeps the citizens of Henrico County safe and I think that's what's been lost in a lot of this discussion. This is really about what's best for the citizens of Henrico County. How do we keep our kids safe at school, keep our homes safe at night, and who has the temperament, the judgment, the character and candidly demeanor to be the next commonwealth's attorneys.
RYAN: Are you suggesting that perhaps your opponent Matt Geary does not possess those characteristics that make those?
JANIS: All right I don't cue haven't a commonwealth attorney that goes around town and says you're either for me or against. You can't have a commonwealth's attorney that goes around town that says pay backs are hell. You can't have a commonwealth's attorney who says and does things that leads people to believe that he will use the power of the commonwealth's attorney's office to punish political enemies, settle old scores, or pursue personal vendettas. That's the reason I'm running for this office because I think the people who have known me and worked with me both for ten years in the House of Delegates where I became the number three ranking elected officer in the leadership of the House, for 11 years as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy where I think I learned a little bit about leadership and management, and also folks that have seen me in court where I tried cases since I was admitted to practice in 2000, I think they know I'm the kind of person that will set aside political agendas because justice is not a democrat thing or a republican thing or an independent thing and there's no room for a prosecutor to use the power of the office to settle old scores or pursue personal vendettas.
RYAN: My last question. Let's talk about the politics of this very quickly. Your opponent is saying that you are now being propped up by a GOP political machine that picks all the candidates for the voters. You are very close with some of the power brokers in Henrico. How would you answer that claim?
JANIS: Anybody that was there at the courthouse today and sought elected republican officials who were standing there with me, here's the thing, people like Senator Walter Stosch, people like Delegate Jack Reid, former delegate, Delegate Jimmie Massie, these people were not hand pick in some smoke filled back room. They were elected by the voters of Henrico. They're not some servants of some nameless, faceless establishment. Many of these people have been elected. Patricia O'Bannon on the Board of Supervisors, David Kaechele Board of Supervisors, former Congressman Tom Bliley, Lisa Marshall is on the School Board, Diana Winston is on the School Board, I started naming them, and I'm going to run out. These people not handpicked in some back, smoke filled room. They stood for election, in some cases repeatedly over many decades and they were elected by the citizens of Henrico. They know the citizens of Henrico and more importantly, the citizens of Henrico know them and all this stuff about back room politics and establishment politics loses the point. The point is what this job is about is keeping our kids safe at school, keeping the homes safe at night and who's most suitable to do that as commonwealth's attorney.
RYAN: Thank you for being here and we'll talk more as the campaign goes forward.