Oklahoma City (Free Press) — The four candidates vying for the GOP nomination in the Oklahoma County district attorney race participated in a debate Wednesday night ahead of the June 28 primary election.
The public debate, hosted by NonDoc Media and News9 television station in OKC, was held at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond and live-streamed on the Facebook pages of both publications. Each candidate took turns answering three rounds of questions with an equal time of two minutes.
See our previous coverage of an earlier Republican candidates forum at the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police (FOP):
Ethics and Obligations
Candidates were asked a series of questions in the first round regarding their position on certain ethical issues and their obligations as the DA.
In one specific question, candidates were asked a question about how the role of a DA differs from an attorney. All four candidates seem to agree that the difference in a prosecutor’s role is their ethical obligation to seek the truth and serve the people, rather than a client’s interest.
Jacqui Ford: “It’s a tough balance because you are not only required to advocate for victims of crimes but you must also advocate for the truth. You must be a person who is honestly seeking the truth, even if the truth does not support your position.”
Kevin Calvey: “I would say the role of the DA is to enforce the law with an emphasis on public safety under the constitutional system of government.”
Gayland Gieger: “Prosecutors have an additional ethical responsibility that doesn’t apply to any other attorneys: … that we simply not advocate to win or lose, but that we see that justice and fairness be done.”
Robert Gray: “It’s not a time for politics, it’s not a time to play games. It’s a time to do what is right and what is right is what the law says.”
Candidates also went on to debate on when it’s ethically appropriate for a DA to recuse themselves in a case and when to authorize the seizure of property from a suspect, a process known as civil asset forfeiture.
Jail and Police Accountability
In the second round, candidates were questioned about their thoughts on the Oklahoma County Jail and police accountability. The candidates raised their hand to show that they will vote “yes” on the ballot to the $260 million dollar bonds for the construction of a new jail except for Gieger who raised his hand halfway and explained that “a new building will not fix the jail’s problems.”
Geiger and Ford particularly mentioned that the unusually high number of inmate deaths reported by the Oklahoma County Jail is a major factor to consider on reconstruction of a new jail. Calvey, who serves on the Jail Trust, said the designing of a new jail would fix other mismanagement and staffing issues the jail currently faces.
Geiger: “Someone died this week committing suicide because they weren’t being properly managed and properly watched. That’s got to stop.”
Ford: “If we, as a community, do not do better with that Oklahoma County Jail, then the blood and death of every one of these people lies in our hands, and we have to do something different.”
Calvey: “We absolutely need a new jail, and yes a new jail will help a lot with some of the current issues in the jail.”
Gray: “I think the DA needs to be very smart on who they’re recommending stay behind bars and who they should let out…. I think they should take the record of the offender into account before making recommendations for bonds that are so high that somebody cannot make and get out of there alive.”
The candidates were also questioned about how to maintain a good relationship with law enforcement while also holding officers accountable as the DA.
For the most part, the four candidates seemed to have similar views on the issues the future DA will likely face; however, the debate became heated during certain discussions between Geiger and Calvey. At some points, the two candidates directly challenged each other – sometimes talking over each other – in their responses regarding how they’ve handled certain cases in their practice.
The final round gave the candidates an opportunity to answer specific questions regarding some concerns voters may have based on their personal record and reputations.
Calvey, who some would consider a career politician, was asked about some concerning comments in a legislative floor speech about “setting himself on fire” in protest to a proposed bill that would give a pay raise to Supreme Court justices. He said his comment was made to draw attention to this issue, which he said was effective and right in doing so.
Calvey: “Sometimes drawing attention to an issue using political theater can be appropriate for a legislator but that’s not what I’ll do as a district attorney.”
Gray was questioned why he did not persist in his prior law enforcement jobs to gain more experience for the position.
Gray: “I think I’ve gone through a different role and gained vast experience practicing law across the state in federal, state and municipal courts all over and I think that experience probably better equips me for the role as district attorney.”
Gieger was asked about the civil lawsuit filed against his son alleging sexual misconduct, and about possible negligence in the supervision of his son.
The lawsuit was dismissed shortly after.
He was asked to explain the situation to voters that might believe he used his position of power to influence the investigation. Geiger said the allegations were false and used as a politically motivated attack.
Gieger: “Whenever you occupy a position of power like this, people take shots at you.”
Finally, Ford was questioned about being arrested and detained over a decade ago that allegedly involved alcohol and confrontations with the police. Charges were filed, but later dropped in one incident and no charges were filed in the other.
Ford: “I did not expunge nor ask to hide those records because I want my clients, and every other person, to know that bad things happen to good people and people get wrongfully arrested all the time.”
Click here to watch the full debate.
Last Updated June 23, 2022, 8:53 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor