Campaign Rewind: Reviewing the Shawnee Co. DA Candidates' Forum

I had a front row seat Tuesday night as moderator for a forum between the candidates for Shawnee County District Attorney at the Fraternal Order of Police lodge. It was a law enforcement crowd, so the questions were law enforcement related. The hour-long Q&A was interesting in that it highlighted how similar the candidates are, and, yet, how different they are. On the one hand you have Republican Eric Rucker, a long-time prosecutor, very forceful and confident in his delivery, usually taking the maximum time allotted to answer a question, then add a few more thoughts, sometimes sharing cases on which he's worked. On the other hand is Democrat Chad Taylor, an attorney in private practice who says his enthusiasm, desire and willingness to surround himself with the best people trumps his lack of experience as a prosecutor - thoughts expressed in a more soft-spoken manner, leaving time to spare. Both say they will improve the relationship between law enforcement and the DA's office; both say they'll bring back a law enforcement lounge, so officers can stay out of the public waiting area while waiting to meet with a prosecutor on a case; both say they will have some sort of liaison between the law enforcement and DA's office; both say they or an assistant will be available 24/7 should they need to get to a crime scene; both talked a lot about cooperation. Both also had basically the same position on whether narcotics officers should be rotated out of the unit every 3-5 years to avoid corruption - Rucker explaining that the DEA doesn't do that, and valuable experience should be kept; Taylor simply stating it's not the DA's place to dictate human resource policy for the police department. Both also tried to use what the other stated as a strength to point out a weakness. Rucker says problems in the current DA's office stem from a person with a civil law background trying to put criminals behind bars - Taylor's lack of criminal experience. Taylor fired back that he has handled complicated cases, and that problems in the current DA's office stem from someone using the position to pursue a personal agenda - implying, as he as directly stated in campaign news releases, that Rucker's association with former AG and current Johnson County DA Phill Kline should raise red flags. How you feel about this face may depend on how you feel about the candidates after seeing and hearing them in person - something you can only do if you attend a forum such as this, maybe more than one - given the audience, we didn't get to issues such as victims services or balancing civil investigations with criminal cases. You'll have plenty of opportunities - the next one at 7pm Thursday, Sept. 25, at Avondale East Elementary. Take the opportunity, then make our judgment at the polls.

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