REDMOND — Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty started his opening speech at a Monday debate with challenger John Hummel by calling himself a “prosecutor, not a politician” and suggesting Hummel may use the DA’s position as a “stepping stone” to other government positions.
“You elected me back in 2010 because you wanted politics removed from the District Attorney’s Office,” he said. “You wanted your DA focused on the constitutional function of the District Attorney’s Office. You wanted decisions that were based upon the law and justice, not upon self-interest, politicians, wimps, special interest, that sort of thing.”
Hummel, in his opening statement, talked at length about mental health issues in Deschutes County, saying the jail is the “largest mental health provider in the county.”
“We need to do more to make sure that the people in our community who are suffering from mental illness get the help they need,” he said. “The community needs a veterans court. … We’ve been talking about a veterans court for a while. I’ll actually help deliver a veterans court.”
The debate, put on by the Redmond Patriots, started with statements from the candidates, followed by questions both candidates answered, then a round of audience-submitted questions that were candidate-specific. It ended with a tense “crossfire” between the men and short closing statements.
Redmond Patriots Chairman and debate moderator Bob Perry asked twice as many questions of Hummel as he did of Flaherty. The questions asked in the debate, which was held at the Highland Baptist Church in Redmond, drew several gasps from audience members. The candidates’ answers drew many rounds of applause, some chuckles and a few shouts from audience members.
Many of the questions Perry asked the candidates addressed social issues, such as support of gay marriage, their opinion on the possible legalization of marijuana and their stances on immigration laws.
“How do you feel about trained school employees or trained volunteers carrying guns on school grounds when the local police cannot provide a school resource officer?” Perry asked of both candidates.
Flaherty said he would support a program like that if those allowed to carry guns were trained by the Oregon Department of Safety Standards and Training.
“I don’t support guns on school campuses,” Hummel told the audience.
Perry stated many times during the debate, and prefaced certain questions, with a reminder that Patriots is not a “politically correct” organization.
He asked Hummel several pointed questions about his stance on undocumented immigrants, including voter identification laws, drivers licenses and in-state college tuition and amnesty for those in the country illegally.
Several members in the audience gasped when Hummel said he supported in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants and did not support voter identification laws.
Other questions posed to Hummel addressed his time on the Bend City Council, his time spent in Liberia and his lack of prosecutorial experience.
Perry asked Flaherty about ways in which he felt he’d been a “change agent” during his time in office, if he felt he’d eliminated “political agendas from the DA operation” and whether he stood behind his decision to not reappoint several deputy district attorneys.
The “crossfire” segment, a largely unstructured time in which Flaherty and Hummel were allowed to ask questions of one another, quickly became heated with raised voices, and Perry had to rein in the candidates. In the crossfire segment, Flaherty asked Hummel how many trials he’d taken to court during his time as a defense attorney. Hummel said he’s tried between 50 and 100 jury trials. Flaherty challenged those numbers, saying the number changes depending on whom Hummel speaks to, which Hummel took issue with.
By the time the “crossfire” segment began, the debate had extended beyond its ending time and, when Perry asked the spectators whether they wanted the candidates to continue asking each other direct questions, they responded with a resounding “no.”
In his closing statement and at other times, Hummel spoke about the various lawsuits Flaherty has faced during his time in office, while Flaherty reiterated that Hummel’s inexperience as a prosecuting attorney makes him unqualified for the job.
Another DA candidate debate is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. on April 15 at the Deschutes County Administrative Building, 1300 N.W. Wall St.
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