By David Arkin: PNT Correspondent
Matt Chandler’s opponent says he’s too young and doesn’t’ have enough experience.
Chandler says that’s baloney.
The 28-year-old Clovis native is ready to be the Ninth Judicial District Attorney — now.
Chandler is bringing a full court press at incumbent District Attorney Brett Carter that includes high volumes of enthusiasm and a slate of new ideas to an office that Chandler says is in need of a little pick-me-up.
He’s calling his movement a “bold, new vision.”
“After an eye-opening experience in the district attorney’s office I decided that it was time for a change in the leadership of that office,” he said. “I want to bring a sense of motivation to fight crime, a sense of accountability to those committing crime and better communication between the citizen and law enforcement. I want to bring pro-active crime programs to the area. I want to stop crimes before they happen.”
On June 1, voters will go to the polls to decide who the next district attorney should be. No one is running on the Democrat ticket for the position.
The election is expected to be a close one, with both candidates working around the clock in an effort to get votes.
The reason there is so much build up behind the race is because of the history between Carter and Chandler.
Earlier this year, Chandler, who had served as an assistant district attorney, was fired by his former boss, Carter, because he declined to back from his decision to run for district attorney.
Carter has said that when he hired Chandler, the Eastern New Mexico University graduate told him he wasn’t interested in running for the district attorney post. Carter has said he regretted Chandler’s decision to run.
Throughout the campaign — and even as soon as the two filed papers to declare their candidacy to run — Chandler has been eager to outdo his opponent.
He turned in three times as many signatures as Carter. Carter maintained that just because someone signed a petition, doesn’t mean that they are going to vote for that individual. Candidates needed 102 votes to get on the ballot.
Chandler’s fast start to the election and enthusiasm about the position hasn’t faded after several weeks of tough campaigning.
“I believe the district attorney has to be someone who brings new ideas to fighting crime and being someone who has passion in their jobs,” Chandler said. “Literally, there are times as a prosecutor where you go from a midnight crime scene to an 8 a.m. jury trial. You need a lot of energy to be able to do all of those jobs of this position effectively. The DA has to set the tone in the office and that means being available at all times.”
Clovis Police Department detective Kirk Roberts seems to believe that Chandler has the energy needed for the DA job.
“I think we need someone like Matt Chandler as DA,” he said. “He has high energy and is able to think outside the box. He is willing to listen to new ideas and explore alternatives to some of the problems that we are facing.”
Roberts said the Ninth Judicial District Attorneys office — just like numerous other ones across the country — are facing many of the same problems, including understaffing and a backlog of court cases.
But he said it’s important the voters choose someone who can deal with those issues.
Each case needs to be given its full attention,” he said. “And that’s why in today’s age you have to be able to think differently. We need to start coming up with ways to solve the problems that we are facing.”
Chandler says he knows how to improve things and deal with problems the district attorneys office is currently facing.
He said he would bring to the office a repeat offender program. According to Chandler, statistics show that 75 percent of a community’s crimes are committed by a small percentage of people.
“The program allows you to target those criminals who are constantly committing crimes,” he said. “When you effectively prosecute the top 10 percent of those who commit crimes, a community’s crime rate can go down.”
Chandler also said he thinks the DA office needs to be more pro-active in dealing with crime.
One such program comes out of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office and focuses on truancy issues.
“The program gets attorneys to teach children that we are accountable for our actions,” he said. “It teaches them that we have to give back in a positive way.”
Chandler also said a program called Meth Watch could go a long way in informing people about the dangers of meth.
Meth Watch is a federal program that assists DA offices in educating communities and merchants about the dangers that meth can have on towns.
“The program is proven to dramatically reduce meth labs in communities,” he said.
Community members are supportive of bringing Chandler’s programs to the area, he said.
“When I present these programs people are very much behind them,” he said. “Crime has increased significantly in our district and we are at a point where we have to stop being reactive.”
While Chandler is upbeat about bringing new programs and energy to the office, his opponent says that the prosecutor needs more experience before taking over the job.
Chandler said he has experience in private practice, as well as handling thousands of criminal cases.
“I have handled every type of crime over the past two years,” he said. “I believe that I can be an effective district attorney.”
He hinted that his background is more local than Carter’s.
“The fact is, the district attorney and I have two complete backgrounds. The current DA was born and raised in Santa Fe and I was born and I was raised in this community. I grew up in a family of law enforcement and I understand how the community feels about law enforcement.”
He also said that he would hear peoples’ concerns.
“The DA needs to have an open ear about the concerns in the community,” he said. “If you don’t know what the concerns are, you aren’t going to be doing much of a service to the people. I feel like hearing people out is a much needed improvement in our district.”