Last week, the first volley was fired in the campaign for the important office of Deschutes County District Attorney. It was an odd beginning to the contest between incumbent Patrick Flaherty, who is wrapping up his first and somewhat controversial term, and John Hummel, a former public defender.
In an effort to expand the campaign, Hummel's Campaign Manager Erin Foote Marlowe (who is the former Managing Editor for this paper) set up a meeting to draw in potential volunteers. To do so, she sent a mass email to attorneys in the area, including Valerie Wright, an attorney who, oops, is also Flaherty's wife. While certainly campaign manager Marlowe should have combed through her distribution list more finely, what happened next was out of left field: Wright showed up to the meeting!
Not surprisingly, she was asked to leave. Reportedly, Marlowe spoke with Wright for ten minutes—which is an awfully long time to explain, "Um, you don't belong here." Since then, Wright has provided some "it-isn't-me-it's-them" rationales, reasoning that would make a gradeschooler blush.
We won't dwell on the minute intricacies, or the excuses that Wright has offered, but we will deliver our verdict, which is: C'mon! Even a third-grader knows that you are not welcome in the other team's huddle. This is basic politics and competition: You don't go into your opponent's camp; you stay out of their corner in the boxing ring; and, you don't break into the Watergate Hotel to look for secrets on your opponent.
Wright has said that her husband knew she planned to attend the meeting, but stopped short of saying whether he condoned the odd behavior. Yes, this weirdness deserves The Boot—which we give this week to Wright.
But that is not the end of the conversation for us.
Last week's tussle was the campaign's first mini-chapter and drama. Stated plainly: It was not a promising opening volley, and we urge both Flaherty and Hummel to make the remaining campaign about the issues and determine which is the right person for the position.
The District Attorney is a critical job for any jurisdiction: Like the brain's frontal lobe, the DA controls judgment and monitors the county's emotional priorities. Stated more specifically, we want and hope for a DA that is the smartest—and most virtuous—person in the room.
It is not a news flash to announce that we have not been impressed by Flaherty's tenure. In his first month in office, he raised a stink when the Bulletin made—and was granted—a public information request to review the qualifications of new hires at the DA's office, going so far as to initiate a Grand Jury investigation into staff members and the Bulletin's journalist. That action by Flaherty has set the tone for his tenure—not to mention a subsequent investigation by the Governor's Office and Oregon State Police of wrongdoing by Flaherty (for which he was, after months of contentious review, ultimately cleared).
Yes, we acknowledge that many of the articles we have published about Flaherty have not been favorable, and that some of that reporting has been done for the Source by our former Managing Editor, Erin Foote Marlowe, who, again, is Hummel's current Campaign Manager and was at the center of last week's skirmish—as the person who sent the email blast and then sent Flaherty's wife home packing from the campaign meeting.
More than anything, though, what we hope to see is that the campaigns move forward from here—water under the bridge and such—and that the campaign to fill the DA's office will begin to focus more on the issues.
As starter topics, we suggest: One, a far-reaching discussion about drug prosecutions, especially focused on meth usage which has been central to many area crimes; and, two, an emphasis on the more sustainable solution of treatment as opposed to incarceration. (For more perspective on America's "war on drugs," we highly recommend a Tuesday evening screening of "The House I Live In"; see review, pg. 25);
Please, candidates, discuss amongst yourselves. And please, act like the grownup we want our DA to be.