In a grueling test of character last week, district attorney candidates defended the truth of their campaign mailers during a televised debate. Recorded last Monday, July 23rd and televised on ETC 3 TV, the debate featured the three district attorney candidates for the Appalachian Circuit: Incumbent Joe Hendricks, Harry Doss and B. Alison Sosebee. The event was moderated by FYN’s Brian Pritchard.
Early in the debate, Doss and Sosebee explained why they thought Hendricks should be voted out of office. For Doss, Hendricks should be replaced because of the case backlog in the DA’s Office. Doss also accused Hendricks’ of trying less than five cases in his seven in-a-half years in office. Sosebee said her reason why the circuit needs a new district attorney is that the DA’s office is mishandling cases, citing an alleged lack of evidence presented before the grand jury for convictions. She also argued that the district attorney’s office does not have a healthy relationship with local law enforcement agencies and does not support the alternative sentencing programs, such as Drug Court and the pending Veteran’s Court. For his part, Hendricks argued he should be reelected because he has fulfilled all of his campaign promises and improved the efficiency of the district attorney’s office by implementing a web-based case management system. Some of these campaign promises include aggressive efforts to stop drunk driving and addressing the meth amphetamine problem.
Later in the debate, though, Mr. Pritchard, the moderator, pressed the candidates on their campaign mailers. In his mailer, Hendricks accuses Sosebee of being “a liberal Democrat pretending to be a Republican,” saying she has made contributions to members of the Democratic Party. He also calls Doss an ex-judge who resigned in disgrace, referring to a JQC (Judicial Qualifications Commission) ethics investigation, which ended in Doss resigning from his superior court seat.
Answering the contribution charge, Sosebee said,
“He is basing that on one campaign contribution that was given to a trial lawyer, a former prosecutor that prosecuted cases to the death penalty.”
She went on to explain that this was in reference to a $200 campaign donation to a fellow trial lawyer. She said the donation was handed to Hendricks’ close friend Richard Hyde who worked with the former Republican Attorney General Mike Bowers. Sosebee also noted Hyde was the one who filed the JQC complaints against Doss. After Doss left the bench, she said, Hendricks nominated Mike Beard to fill the spot. Beard, she noted, was appointed by the Obama Administration.
“If I am liberal Democrat for giving a $200 contribution to a fellow trial attorney,”
“I’d like to know exactly what Mr. Hendricks is when he is attempting to fill the seat with a well known Democratic candidate for the superior court seat for the Appalachian circuit.”
Doss also responded to Hendricks’ accusation from the mailer, regarding the JQC ethics investigation.
“Mr. Hendricks has had me investigated by two of what’s considered to be the best district attorneys in the state, Danny Porter of Gwinnett and Pat Head of Cobb,”
he said. Doss went on to explain that the investigations went on for three years and in the end, in a letter to Hendricks, Head concluded that insufficient evidence existed to bring charges against Doss.
He also explained another accusation made by Hendricks. In his mailer, Hendricks states that Doss’ unethical behavior included gambling trips to Nevada. At the direction of the state, Doss said, he attended a judicial college in Reno, Nevada. Moderator Brian Pritchard noted that Judges Bradley, Weaver and Mercier have also attended this same college. Hendricks asserted, though, that Doss allegedly received a $1000 cash advance in a Reno Casino on a government credit card. Doss said that he only paid for his hotel room while in Reno, calling these and all other accusations made by Hendricks’ lies.
“A district attorney who will lie in a mail-out will lie to the grand jury about you,”
Doss said. Referring to Head’s letter, Hendricks said the alleged $1000 advance was basically a theft, but since it was later paid back, Head did not pursue the matter further. He went on to assert that the money was used to gamble, although he did not say he could prove the accusation. As for the other accusations, Hendricks said Head’s report stated they couldn’t pursue a prosecution due to poor record keeping. Responding to Hendricks mailer, Sosebee said she too thought it contains blatant lies. For her part, Sosebee stated she did not send out a mailer because it was too expensive.
Earlier in the discussion, Hendricks also had the opportunity to answer Doss’ accusations against him stated in his mailer. In Doss’ mailer, he calls Hendricks “
the district attorney who doesn’t work.”
Answering this charge, Hendricks read off a litany of cases he was involved in. Doss, though, said these were not cases Hendricks tried, arguing that most of them were negotiated pleas or plead down in some way.
In the end, the exercise of examining the truth in advertising of the candidates’ campaign mailers allows voters a deeper look into a series of accusations and the defense of each of those accusations by the accused candidates. Now, voters must decide which candidates are more credible and tomorrow’s election results will reveal which candidate passed the test of character.