By Howard Rodstein

Crime Victims United of Oregon strongly endorses Patrick Flaherty for Deschutes County district attorney. Flaherty is the clear choice to defend and preserve public safety and crime victims’ rights.

The voters of Deschutes County are presented with a stark contrast. On one hand you have District Attorney Patrick Flaherty, who has worked as a prosecutor for more than a decade and who supports landmark sentencing laws enacted by the people and the Legislature. On the other hand, you have former City Councilman John Hummel, who has no experience as a prosecutor and who claims he will uphold those laws though he does not support them.

We agree with Flaherty, who stated the simple truth that “the most effective prevention is enforcement of the law” (The Bulletin, May 3). Listening to the debates we hear Hummel duck every question of where he stands on existing laws.

In our view, Flaherty is qualified by experience and philosophy to be district attorney. Hummel is not.

Looking at some of Hummel’s supporters gives us cause for concern. He has strong support from the prisoner advocacy group “Partnership for Safety and Justice” (formerly “Western Prison Project”). The interim director of PSJ, state Rep. Jennifer Williamson, is one of Hummel’s most prominent political supporters. And PSJ’s main legislative ally, state Sen. Chip Shields, is Hummel’s largest financial contributor.

PSJ has worked tirelessly over the last 15 years to slash sentences in Oregon, including sentences for repeat identity theft and burglary, and the Measure 11 crimes of felony aggravated assault, armed robbery, kidnapping, child molestation, sexual assault, rape and murder. The degree to which Hummel supports PSJ’s agenda is unclear due to his unwillingness to state his view of the laws in question. But here is what we know for sure.

In his role as lobbyist for the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Hummel lobbied against Jessica’s Law, passed with nearly unanimous bipartisan support by the 2006 Oregon Legislature, which requires a mandatory 25-year sentence for the first-degree rape of a child under the age of 12.

In a September 2013 article, The Source quoted Hummel as saying that he “voted against Measure 11 and would do it again.” In a May 3 interview with The Bulletin, Hummel “declined to explain his personal views on Measure 11.” When an initiative to repeal it appeared on the ballot in 2000, Measure 11 received the support of more than 75 percent of Deschutes County voters. This might explain Hummel’s reticence about expressing his views on the subject. By the way, Shields, Hummel’s largest donor, contributed $10,000 to the effort to repeal Measure 11.

In the League of Women Voters debate, while waffling on Jessica’s Law, Hummel said “My personal opinion on any law is irrelevant.” He says he will enforce the law whether he agrees with it or not. That may be true. But we believe it is a virtual certainty that, if elected district attorney, he will go to Salem and join his allies in lobbying against laws that the voters of Deschutes County overwhelmingly support, as he has done in the past.

Crime Victims United is deeply concerned with the possibility of electing a district attorney in Deschutes County whose view of criminal justice is distinctly at odds with the standards of the community.

The Bend Police Officers’ Association and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Association have endorsed Flaherty, as has the association which represents the 16 deputy district attorneys in his office. He also has the support of both chief deputy district attorneys.

In this election, the voters will decide who to entrust with public safety in Deschutes County. Based on our decades of experience working on criminal justice issues at local, county and state levels, and with victims and district attorneys across the state, Crime Victims United of Oregon can assure you that Patrick Flaherty is the right choice.

— Howard Rodstein is a senior policy analyst and board member of Crime Victims United of Oregon.