By Jack King
Candidates for the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s office traded sharp words on Tuesday, highlighting a political forum hosted by KTQM/KWKA’s radio station.
Asked by a caller what he could do to actually prevent crime, candidate Matthew Chandler said he would launch bold new proactive programs like Abolish Chronic Truancy (ACT), aimed at keeping truant students off the street, and the Repeat Offender Prevention Program (ROPP), aimed at speeding up the prosecution of repeat offenders.
“Our courthouse has turned into a revolving door. We need to fast track offenders to prison and out of the community,” Chandler said.
But Brett Carter, the incumbent district attorney, said the 9th Judicial District is larger than Curry County and noted that crime is down in Roosevelt County. Also, Curry County recorded 100 fewer felony crimes in 2003 than it did in 2002, he added.
Carter said his office already is active in truancy prevention programs and it already targets repeat offenders.
“Look at our Web site and see the support from a number of law enforcement officials,” Carter said.
“I hope you do check with school officials,” Chandler shot back, “because truancy cases are not being prosecuted.”
Announcer Grant McGee attempted to deflate the tension generated by the exchange during a program break, asking humorously, “Can’t we all just get along?”
Chandler and Carter topped off their sparring match during the candidates’ concluding remarks, with Chandler touching off a new exchange by quoting John Quincy Adams, by way of Ronald Reagan.
“As Ronald Reagan said, ‘Facts are stubborn things … we can’t alter the state of facts and evidence.’ Crime is at an all-time high in the district. If you’re ready for change and new motivation, vote for me,” he said.
There is no reason for change in the district attorney’s office, Carter replied. Through his efforts, the office now has more money and more personnel, and sentencings are going up.
“In terms of experience, 17 years (for Carter in the prosecutor’s office) versus 17 months (for Chandler) does make a difference,” he said.
Callers to the live broadcast had questions for other candidates as well.
None of the candidates for state senator or state representative seemed anxious to answer when a listener asked if they would support a law giving cities and counties the power to enact fuel taxes to fund road improvements.
State Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said he would be willing to consider such a measure.
“That’s a difficult question to answer,” he said. “Places on the border, like Curry and Roosevelt counties, have to be careful about raising gas prices.
Nineteen of the candidates in the upcoming primary attended the radio forum.