Franklin County is poised to elect its first-ever African American county prosecutor this year, but just days before the Democrat primary vote, many African Americans and others in the community are still weighing their options and unsure who is best for the position in this post-George Floyd era and out-of-control gun violence.

But the fact that whoever wins the Democrat primary for prosecutor in the year 2024 will likely be the first ever African American prosecutor for as diverse as Franklin County is speaks for itself.  

“Way overdue,” says former City Council candidate Adrienne Hood who lost a son to the guns of Columbus police. “It will bring cultural awareness that cannot be learned in books of the selection is someone who truly is committed to changing the office thru not only diversity but also accountability.”

Favor has received $52,000 of In Kind contributions from the Ohio Democratic Party that has paid for her mailers. But they did not formally endorse her. The second candidate is Anthony Pierson, current Deputy Chief Counsel for the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office. Up until this summer he was lead prosecutor for Ohio Attorney General (GOP) Dave Yost for all deadly police shootings – and let Akron officers off the hook after they fired 100 bullets killing Jayland Walker, contend some Black progressives. Pierson is also supported by Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin and former GOP county prosecutor Ron O’Brien. Both considered police-state apologists by many activists. Pierson though sends mixed messages, as some say his 5-point plan, which includes hiring more Black attorneys, sure looks progressive. The third candidate is Natalia S. Harris (pictured above on left), who appears to be the activist candidate, suggested some to the Free Press. She advocates for mental-health diversion and housing for juveniles outside of detention facilities, among other priorities. But many are unfamiliar with Harris and her past work.

A county prosecutor in most major urban American cities has arguably become the most challenging job for any city leadership. Yet here in Franklin County even the most knowledgeable about policing and prosecutorial responsibilities are having trouble deciding who is their best candidate.

“I am not endorsing any candidate yet,” says Ms. Hood. “I do have concerns about Pierson, especially since he’s been with O’Brien for almost 15 years off and on, and also with Yost.”

Hood said she would like to see the office improve its integrity and be far more transparent with the community about their findings.

“Though they would like for the community to believe that we have outstanding prosecutors we all know there are people who are innocent or doing more time than they should because of the lack of integrity of some,” she said, adding, “I think the emotions of the Black community will drive their decisions more than a well thought out one.”

African American progressive activist Jonathan Beard – who has been outspoken toward City Council – told the Free Press he is considering either “Pierson or Harris, haven’t yet decided.” He says Favor is “unqualified for the job.”

“I think it is important to have a county prosecutor who doesn’t lie to the people or arrogantly act like they know more than others who have real experience when it’s patently clear they don’t know squat. This is a position where experience matters and ambition needs to take a step back,” said Beard. “The more immediate and significant consequences of ineptitude in the county prosecutor’s office make real experience there more important than in a City Council seat.”

Former Mayoral candidate Joe Motil agrees with Beard that it is worrisome Favor lacks a prosecutorial background. He also suggests City powers are again trying to gain more control over another regional office.

“I will most likely be voting for Pierson,” said Motil. “I am okay with Harris, too. But not Favor. A lack of experience, and if she wins, the office will be even more politicized than it is now.”

The local Blackout Coalition, a nonprofit with a mission to empower Black institutions, is urging on Twitter that in “No way Anthony Pierson should be the next Franklin County prosecutor” for his role in not prosecuting the Akron officers who killed Jayland Walker.

However, while local African American progressive activists stay concerned, some are convinced Pierson has the necessary experience to bring needed change to this critical office during difficult times.

“I am progressive, but I also have common sense, logical thinking,” says Cynthia Brown director of the locally-based the Ohio Coalition to End Qualified Immunity (OCEQI). “Jayland Walker’s case was presented to the grand jury, those folks decided not to indict. How long did the Republican prosecutor control Franklin County? Over 30 years.”

Brown says she is voting for Pierson.

“Anthony Pierson’s career has been marked by a commitment to justice, accountability, and community well-being. His bid for Franklin County prosecutor reflects his dedication to making a positive impact on the criminal justice system,” she said. “The bottom line is this. Folks should do their own research. The grand jury process needs to be changed. The officers in Akron received Qualified Immunity. Stated they feared for their lives. One bullet to 100 bullets.”