By Shelby R. King
Patrick Flaherty has served his first, and likely last, term as Deschutes County district attorney after being unseated in the most contentious race of the election. John Hummel, an attorney who once served on the Bend City Council, won handily in Tuesday’s election.
Hummel said he decided to run for office after seeing how Flaherty’s leadership style had created what he called a “toxic” office environment and disagreeing with the way Flaherty went about making personnel changes that caused five former and current employees to file lawsuits against him, ultimately resulting in more than $1 million in settlements. Flaherty had said he ran for re-election because he was honored to serve as DA and wanted to continue working on programs — such as veterans court — that he began organizing during his first term.
The men envisioned vastly different roles for a district attorney, with Flaherty saying he’d run a traditional office focused on prosecuting criminals.
Hummel said he would focus less on prosecution and more on collaboration with outside agencies, managing the office and establishing programs to prevent crime. It looks as if he will get his chance.
“My first thought is that I am happy for all the volunteers. We had more than 100 volunteers helping with this campaign,” Hummel said Tuesday from his victory party at the Summit Saloon. “I’m happy for them, and I’m, of course, happy for myself. It’s a culmination of a year of hard work, and it’s nice to see that hard work pay off.”
Hummel, 44, spent 12 years as a defense attorney in Central Oregon and the Portland area. He moved to Bend in 1996 and in 2000 was elected to the City Council. He served there until 2006 when he abruptly resigned and announced he’d leave the area to work in Liberia for The Carter Center. He returned to Central Oregon in 2012 and announced his candidacy for DA in September 2013.
For the last two years, Hummel has worked as the state and federal policy director at Oregon Primary Care Association. He said he’s taken today off but will return to working full-time there now that the campaign is over. Hummel has no plans yet on how to transition into the DA’s office, he said. “Patrick is the district attorney until January, so he will make any decisions about that, not me,” Hummel said. “I respect that.”
Flaherty, 57, in 2010 ousted longtime DA Mike Dugan to take his former boss’ job. Flaherty started working for Dugan in 1992. In 1995 he was promoted to chief deputy, where he remained until he quit in 2001 and went into private practice.
Flaherty, in a Tuesday phone call, said his loss, “at a disturbing level, (is) disappointing.”
“I know that many people were misled by the false advertising that Hummel saturated the airwaves with from all the money he raised outside our community,” Flaherty said. “People didn’t do the level of research that I think many hoped they would do. It’s kind of frightening, frankly, because so many of his statements were just blatant lies.”
DA is a nonpartisan office. Because there were only two candidates, the primary decided this election.
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