The two candidates for Deschutes County district attorney covered both familiar and new territory as they met in Redmond Monday evening for their second debate. The Redmond Patriots hosted current DA Patrick Flaherty and his challenger, John Hummel, at Highland Baptist Church.
The debate started off with opening statements, Flaherty saying the voters wanted a DA who wasn't politically motivated, and the culture of the office changed. He said he followed through on the those promises. Hummel opened by saying there needs to be more community outreach and special courts set up for groups like veterans. He also touched on the mental health crisis in Deschutes County and said it, too needs to be fixed. The debate began over Measure 11, the mandatory minimum sentencing law, and what each candidate thought of it. Flaherty said he supported the measure and has tried numerous crimes under the mandatory sentencing law. "I know that my opponent here voted against Measure 11, and said he would do so again," Flaherty said. "That causes me deep concern." Hummel responded by saying he wasn't in Oregon when the state voted on it. He told the crowd he moved to the state in 1995.
Hummel said that whatever the law is, he will enforce it, and that he had no mercy for adults who commit Measure 11 crimes. But when it came to people age 15 and 16, it was a different tone. "I have a place in my heart for the 15- or 16- or 17-year-old kid who makes a mistake," Hummel said. "Maybe a mistake, but for the grace of God, many of us would have gone away for a long time for.
"We wouldn't have been able to get into the military, wouldn't have been able to get into college, wouldn't have been able to get a job, have to be on public assistance our whole life because of something stupid we did." Then came a question that drew the first reaction from the audience, whether or not to enforce or seek the death penalty. Both men said there needs to be discretion on whether to impose it or not. "The governor has the authority under our Constitution to grant pardons and clemencies," Hummel said. "I don't think it's appropriate to do it across the board." "He (the governor) does have the power to do that under the Constitution and the right to do that," Flaherty said. "I disagree with him exercising that power." The two men didn't start finger-pointing until they were asked about unions within the DA's office. Hummel, in a roundabout way, brought up the first few months of Flaherty's first term, when three deputy district attorneys were fired, who as a result filed lawsuits against the the DA's office. "I'm not shy about removing that employee, but how are we going to do it?" Hummel said. "We're going to talk to the county attorney. We're going to talk to the human resources department. We're going to do it the proper way." But Flaherty fired back. "My opponent doesn't understand that this is a state office." Flaherty said. "The county attorney is not someone that the district attorney can work with or talk to." Hummel also talked about a letter he had that Flaherty wrote to one of the deputy DAs, saying it revealed the real reason why he was let go. "I won't say the person's name here, but I have the letter. We'll call the person Mike, but that's not their name," Hummel said. "Dear Mike, I just wanted to let you know when I take office I'm going to be firing you. The reason for that is you supported my opponent in the campaign and you didn't call me after I won." Flaherty responded: "First of all, the letter he just referenced and the language he just used is a complete misrepresentation." Later in the debate, Flaherty told the crowd a second time the reasons why he let the three deputy DAs go. He said one lied during an investigation, the second lied to him, and the third created an unsafe work environment. Just like the first debate, Flaherty stressed what he calls Hummel's lack of prosecutorial experience, and his political motivations for the office. While Hummel noted the cost of lawsuits filed during Flaherty's tenure, Flaherty fired back about some controversial issues that arose during Hummel's time on the Bend City Council that cost taxpayer dollars. One topic not talked about in the first debate, guns in school, came up this time. Flaherty said he supported an idea to have armed volunteers, and the like if they had the same state public safety training certification police officers go through to carry a gun. Hummel told the crowd he doesn't support guns on any school campuses. The two will meet at least one more time, on the evening of Tuesday, April 15th, in a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters.