The Network of Entrepreneurs and Business Advocates (NEBA) held a forum featuring the three candidates vying for the position of State Attorney for the 2nd Judicial Circuit.
The current State Attorney, Willie Meggs, is retiring after 32 years.
The State Attorney processes all criminal cases presented by law enforcement officers who have charged persons with felonies, misdemeanors, traffic crimes like DUI or reckless driving, acts of juvenile delinquency, and some violations of county or municipal ordinances. The State Attorney leads a staff of over 42 attorneys.
The race for State Attorney is a partisan election which means that Democrat Party candidates, Jack Campbell and Sean Desmond, will face off in the primary to be held in August.
The third candidate, Republican Pete Williams, will forego a primary and face the winner of the Democrat primary if no other Republicans enter the race.
Jack Campbell, who has worked in the State Attorney’s Office for the last fifteen years, told the crowd of about 100 that “public service is in my heart” and his goal is to make the office more approachable for regular citizens.
Mr. Campbell spoke about how he plans to use technology to make the office more efficient and expressed the need for good relationships with the community to do the job in the most effective manner.
Mr. Campbell acknowledged the local crime situation and said we have a “major gang problem.” He acknowledged the problem demands the focus of his office and is one of the reasons he serves on the Community Leadership Council on Gun Violence.
Mr. Desmond said he will bring a fresh leadership perspective to the State Attorney’s Office and indicated it was time to break with the past and to forge new relationships.
He said the biggest problem in our community is violent crime and he planned to address the issue with better relationships with all law enforcement agencies and community outreach.
He also commented about the high turnover of lawyers at the State Attorney’s Office and promised to require new hires to stay for at least three years.
Mr. Desmond who has experience working for the State Attorney’s office and in the private sector as a defense attorney, said he has “seen the legal system from both sides.”
Pete Williams, who lost a close race to Mr. Meggs four years ago, said the State Attorney position is very important because of the power to arrest and to the power to choose not to arrest.
Mr. Williams argued that the State Attorney’s Office is unfair to minorities when it comes to the decision to prosecute and he believes he could do a better job deciding when and when not to pursue a conviction.
Mr. Williams also said the he would install a code of ethics for the State Attorney’s Office if elected and said it was troublesome that someone currently employed by the State Attorney’s Office could take contributions from attorneys that may have dealings with the State Attorney’s Office.
The straw poll held after the forum was won by Jack Campbell. Only NEBA members could vote and final tallies were not revealed.