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Roundtable: Race For San Diego County District Attorney

KPBS Roundtable

Roundtable: Race For San Diego District Attorney

Aired 5/9/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Mark Sauer


Bonnie Dumanis, incumbent, San Diego District Attorney

Bob Brewer, candidate, San Diego District Attorney

Terri Wyatt, candidate, San Diego District Attorney


San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and her challengers traded barbs Friday in a debate broadcast on KPBS.

Lawyer Bob Brewer and former Deputy District Attorney Terri Wyatt contended that Dumanis has politicized the office that she's held for a dozen years.

"I think people are tired of career politicians as public officials, and I think a career prosecutor ought to lead this office," said Wyatt, a county prosecutor for nearly 27 years.

Decisions become politically motivated when people are in office too long, she said during the half-hour radio and television forum.

Brewer, who has been in private practice for 32 years, said Dumanis made a "bad error in judgment" when she ran for San Diego mayor two years ago. Dumanis finished fourth in the June 2012 primary election.

Dumanis denied her challengers' allegations that she has politicized the office and said she is passionate about public safety. She pointed out that crime is at historic lows in San Diego County and violent crime is at its second-lowest rate in the past 30 years.

"One of the reasons is our 94 percent conviction rate -- we put the bad guys in prison, keep them there," Dumanis said. "We need to keep doing what we're doing, because it's working."

While the race has featured some sharp jabs between the campaigns, the debate itself was relatively civil.

One dust-up occurred when Dumanis accused Brewer of using "half-truths" like a defense lawyer would.

Brewer responded that it was "shocking" that a former judge would use such a criticism of a defense attorney. He said criminal defense work is about 10 percent to 15 percent of his practice.

"I totally respect criminal defense lawyers," Dumanis said.

On issues, all three candidates said they opposed the state realignment of the prison system, which sent many convicted felons back to local jails, and all supported the use of the death penalty.

Dumanis called death penalty decisions "one of the most somber things I do."

Brewer said he favors imposing the ultimate punishment in the right cases.

Wyatt said murders of children or law enforcement officers were two situations in which she might seek execution of a defendant.

"Some cases just cry out for the death penalty," Wyatt said.

If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 3 primary election, the top two will move on to a runoff election in November.

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Avatar for user 'deenie'

deenie | May 9, 2014 at 5:41 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Dumanis seemed very evasive about answering any questions relating to the Padilla phone call. She didn't seem like a straight shooter in these debates... Rather more like a PR campaigner.

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Avatar for user 'Marty_Martins'

Marty_Martins | May 9, 2014 at 5:59 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Did I miss the part where Dumanis answered Brewer's simple yes or no question regarding whether she called the mayor of Chula Vista about getting her gofer appointed to the City Council?

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Avatar for user 'VictimsAction'

VictimsAction | May 10, 2014 at 7:34 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

I would like to know when and to whom Ms. Dumanis opposed AB109. After personally pleading with her to oppose AB109 before the Governor signed it into law, I've never seen any evidence of her opposition to realignment.

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Avatar for user 'RCPhill808'

RCPhill808 | May 10, 2014 at 10:36 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

As is so graphically illustrated in this broadcast forum, DA Bonnie Dumanis continues to refuse to confirm or deny telephoning Chula Vista Mayor Padilla in an unsuccessful attempt to have her friend and DA employee appointed to the CV city council, an occurrence that was closely followed by an obviously retaliatory DA-initiated investigation and unsuccessful prosecution of various Chula Vista officials. I also note that by her own admission, she only released what documentation she herself deems appropriate concerning this whole suspicious and sordid affair and that she continues to hold back from public scrutiny anything of any substance. What does this tell you? It tells me that there is some truth to the accusations that she attempted to meddle in Chula Vista politics, unethically abused her power as the county’s chief law enforcement officer when she didn’t get her way by initiating a meritless prosecution motivated by pure vindictiveness, and is now stonewalling all attempts to get to the truth of the matter. How can someone who so easily violates the public trust and then afterwards refuses to accept responsibility for her misdeeds be allowed to remain in any position of authority in this county?

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Avatar for user 'Mike_in_SD'

Mike_in_SD | May 10, 2014 at 1:05 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

You guys must have been watching a different debate. Dumanis answered every muddy issue Brewer threw at her. Ms Wyatt seem pleasant and sincere but Brewer was as slimy as you can get. Dumanis has been the only DA that has NOT played politics, she tells it like she sees it.

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Avatar for user 'MaraAllard'

MaraAllard | May 11, 2014 at 7:31 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

The concerning attitude displayed by Ms. Dumanis in this forum is best reflected in her comments that as a judge her perception was that citizens who packed her courtroom were there to bully and intimidate her. No one packs a courtroom more than crime victims and their families at a sentencing hearing which is their first opportunity to openly speak in a courtroom. The lawyers are the ones that argue the law. The impression taken from her comments in this forum is that the citizens should stay out of her business as she knows best. A conviction rate is a number that does not reflect whether the case was resolved as a felony or a misdemeanor. It does not reflect the sentence. It is a number that can be played with and does not give an accurate picture of how cases are really being resolved. The biggest concern of all is that Ms. Dumanis has not denied that she initiated a prosecution after she made a phone call to a mayor and was denied a political favor. She said she was going to answer that question and then deflects and criticizes Mr. Brewer instead. This tactic is all to commonly observed in the testimony of uncooperative witnesses on the stand. It is not a tactic that should be employed by a person entrusted by the public to safeguard truth and justice.

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Avatar for user 'Zone11'

Zone11 | May 13, 2014 at 5:01 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Dumanis has hit TV with an attack ad which claims that Brewer has never "put away" a single criminal in his career. Well, how many criminals did Dumanis "put away" BEFORE she became DA? Obvious, of course, no lawyer can convict anyone, that is a state function. Slimey tactics like that is more than enough reason to vote against Dumanis.

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Avatar for user 'Zone11'

Zone11 | May 13, 2014 at 5:10 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Didn't Dumanis claim that the Sweetwater kick-back and corruption case was the worst example of civic malfeasance that she had encountered in her entire career? So, how has her office resolved these cases? Felonies pled down to misdemeanors and extremely lenient sentencing acceptance; some defendants were allowed to even remain in office; there have been no fines or any jail time. It may not be justice, but it does bolster Dumanis' conviction rate. Meanwhile, wasn't it Dumanis who brought felony property destruction charges against some guy who trimmed some shrubs on public property?

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