TALLAHASSEE — As the end of the long primary campaign season comes to an end, democrat contenders for State Attorney, 2nd Judicial District, give final arguments for who would best fill the shoes of the retiring State Attorney Willie Meggs.
Jack Campbell is Meggs’ Assistant State Attorney and has worked in the office since 2001. He said he has a deep wealth of knowledge of the criminal justice system and its issues (such as body cameras for police, the death penalty, drugs and sexual abuse), and can “hit the ground running.”
He said, “I understand what our community is about, what we need in criminal justice system.”
Sean Desmond, a private attorney who has also worked for the State Attorney’s Office under Meggs, claimed “We’ve had 32 years under one State Attorney and the same style of leadership is what my opponent brings to the table. We need to change it dramatically to deal with the issues (like violent crime and other serious crimes) we are facing in our community.”
Campbell, the son of the late Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell, took issue with that assertion and said, “I am not a little Willie and I am not a little Larry. I am my own man and the suggestion that I’m a continuation is just patently wrong.”
He said he will implement more technology to make the State Attorney’s office able to respond quicker and more efficiently. He also wants prosecutors more involved with the community. He said he wants citizens to “know prosecutors from your community personally before you have to know them professionally.”
“When Willie came in it was kind of Andy Griffith,” Campbell said. “Today, I have 300,000 people and I can’t know everyone so I am gonna shove my staff into the community so they can be better appendages of my office and reflect and react to demands of community as a whole.”
Desmond said the difference between him and opponent is he’s worked in the criminal justice system on both sides. He was Chief Prosecutor in Franklin County and Wakulla County and chief of the Leon County Court Division. Desmond also worked for the State Attorney’s Office under Meggs from 2001 to 2003 and again from 2009 through 2011.
“When you can see the case from both sides, you can reach justice in a better way than when you have the perspective of ‘I need to get as many convictions as I can, I need to make sure my conviction rate is as close as possible to the arrest rate’…” Desmond said.
“While numbers are important and we do need to be cognizant of them,” he continued, “I don’t think the people running through our system need to be dealt with always like numbers.”
During the campaign Meggs has characterized Desmond as not being qualified to be State Attorney.
“(It is the) worse kept secret in all of Leon County that Willie Meggs has been pushing the former sheriff’s son since he was born. I think (his criticism is) completely politically motivated.”
Desmond said that Meggs’ recommended Desmond run for judge and hired him as Chief Prosecutor. “What does it say about Meggs, if I’m not qualified?”
As the candidates rest their cases, voters make their decisions this month on who will advance to take on republican candidate Pete Williams in the general election.