Roundtable: Race For San Diego County 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.