Trial lawyer Zach Thomas will run again for Johnson County DA in 2024

Photo courtesy Zach Thomas campaign.

The race for Johnson County’s top prosecutor became a three-way contest Tuesday as Zach Thomas officially announced his candidacy.

Thomas, a trial lawyer in private practice who has a background as a defense lawyer, said he would challenge incumbent Steve Howe, who is running for a fifth term. Former assistant prosecutor Vanessa Riebli announced her intentions to run last month.

Thomas has challenged Howe before

Thomas ran against Howe in 2020 and garnered 48% of the vote to Howe’s nearly 52%.

Howe was first elected in 2008 and ran unopposed for re-election in 2012 and 2016.

The race that year played out against a backdrop of upheaval around the country, as the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis put the spotlight on law enforcement.

Thomas and Howe sparred over the police response to protests in 2020, as well as Howe’s handling of the investigation into the fatal police killing of Overland Park teen John Albers in 2017.

Thomas is a Johnson County native

In his announcement Tuesday, Thomas pledged to work for a “modern justice system” in the county that focuses on rehabilitation for perpetrators of low-level crimes and aggressively prosecutes violent offenders.

He also portrayed himself as an alternative to the other candidates, who he said are more about preserving the status quo.

Thomas was raised in Lenexa, graduated from Rockhurst High School and later Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

He attended law school at the University of Kansas, was president of the Asian American Bar Association and served on the Johnson County Bar Foundation.

Roxie Hammill is a freelance journalist who reports frequently for the Post and other Kansas City area publications. You can reach her at