SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A refugee turned high-profile prosecutor is now running to be Sacramento County’s next district attorney.

Thien Ho, the lead prosecutor in the East Area Rapist case, is now the third person to announce his candidacy.

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He thinks his personal story will resonate with voters. The 47-year-old is a life-long prosecutor with a history of big wins. But perhaps his most meaningful victory was escaping communist Vietnam.

“The United States of America has afforded me an opportunity to not only dream, but to fulfill those dreams,” said Ho.

Those dreams now extend beyond life as a prosecutor. Ho believes he’s been called to a higher post: Sacramento County district attorney.

“The people of Sacramento County deserve the steady hand of a veteran prosecutor with a proven track record and the leadership skills necessary to protect the public, connect with communities and build bridges,” said Ho.

His candidacy comes on the heels of a high-profile conviction as lead prosecutor in the case against East Area Rapist Joseph DeAngelo.

“I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish in that case,” he said.

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The 47-year-old Democrat came to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam in 1976, after his father stole a military officer’s uniform and painted Ho’s toy gun black.

“Using that military uniform and the toy gun, he was able to get us past military checkpoints so we could escape by sea,” said Ho.

Ho went on to graduate from UC Davis and McGeorge School of Law before winning prosecutor of the year in 2017. He’d replace current DA Anne Marie Schubert who’s running for state attorney general. He’s facing two other candidates, one of whom Schubert has already endorsed.

“I believe Ann Marie Schubert has, for all intents and purposes, endorsed me,” he said. “She endorsed me when she promoted me to the supervisor of the gangs and hate crimes unit.”

As for his top priorities, should he get the job?

“[I’ll] make sure the voices of the victims are always heard as we reform our system. It must be reasonable reform, rather than reckless reform,” he said.

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Ho says this race comes down to the three “e’s”: experience, expertise, and empathy. He says he hopes that by sharing more of his story, people will see that he checks all those boxes, and vote for him.

Adrienne Moore