When all is said and done, the charges and countercharges about their individual voting records do nothing to enhance the debate between Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty and his opponent, John Hummel.
Yes, Flaherty has missed a few elections, but they generally were ones in which candidates ran unopposed. And yes, Hummel missed elections during the time he spent in Liberia. Assuming the mail system in that part of the world is as bad as he says it is, that, too, doesn’t matter much.
There are things that do matter, however, and unfortunately they’re not what the two candidates are talking about. Voters deserve better.
In fact, there’s only one issue of substance: Does Flaherty do a good job as Deschutes County’s top law enforcement officer? If yes, fine. If no, how would Hummel do a better one?
Flaherty’s record in office is a far better measure of his worth as DA than is his voting record. Does he charge criminals appropriately? Does he offer plea bargains when doing so will serve the public better than a trial would? Do he and his staff show up in court well prepared each day? And so on.
And what would Hummel do differently? Does he have serious complaints about how Flaherty handles the nuts and bolts of his job, complaints so serious that he thinks justice is not being done as a result?
Both men need to recognize the race for what it is and respond accordingly.
That means that Flaherty, like it or not, must engage with the public.
He should talk to the press, including The Bulletin, as soon as he can. Answers to questions about his tenure cannot be delayed by weeks or ignored altogether. He must engage with Hummel whenever he legitimately can.
As for Hummel, he needs to address the issues at hand and leave the more minor stuff alone. He demeans the job he wants to hold if he fails to do otherwise.
The district attorney’s race is, arguably, the most important contest in Deschutes County this spring. The two candidates have an obligation to inform, not distract from the issues that matter.