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Five vie for attorney general race

October 10, 2014

Five candidates are vying for the attorney general seat vacated by Beau Biden. The term is for four years.

Catherine Damavandi

Green Party candidate

Age: 40

Residence: Wilmington

Education: master of laws in trial advocacy, Temple University Beasley School of Law; J.D., Widener University School of Law; B.A., West Chester University

Work experience: 2000-2014, deputy attorney general, Delaware Department of Justice; 1998-1999, judicial extern, Delaware Supreme Court

Family: close knit family

Reason for running: I entered this race after listening to my opponents’ proposals, which revealed that they did not understand the criminal justice system. With over 14 years of experience at the Attorney General’s Office, I understand the criminal justice system and how to address our State’s problems. By law, I had to resign from my job at the Attorney General’s Office to run. As attorney general, I will run the office with honesty and integrity, have staff who are independent (and promoted based on merit), and develop strategies to reduce crime that go to the heart of the problem, not band-aid fixes.

Matt Denn

Democrat candidate

Age: 48

Residence: Newark

Education: B.A., University of California – Berkeley; J.D., Yale Law School

Work experience: Lieutenant governor, Delaware, 2009 – present; attorney in private practice 1993-2000, 2003-2004 and on a part-time basis 2009 – present; legal counsel to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner 2001-2002; attorney for Delaware Volunteer Legal Services 1991-1992; Insurance Commissioner, 2005-2009

Family: Wife, Michele, sons, Adam and Zach

Reason for running: The primary reason I am running for attorney general is to help our state deal with its violent crime and homicide problem. I have a specific plan I have laid out to deal with this problem, and the background as lieutenant governor, insurance commissioner and a practicing attorney for 11 years to implement that plan.

My plan involves dealing with violent crime on the law enforcement front, and also addressing its underlying causes such as substance abuse. One of my other priorities will be protection of Delaware’s most vulnerable citizens – children, senior citizens, and Delawareans with disabilities.

David Graham

Independent Party candidate

Age: 60

Residence: Massey's Millpond south of Smyrna

Education: 1972 Smyrna High School; 1972 U.S.Army Basic Training - Ft. Jackson, SC; 1973 U.S Army Signal School-Ft. Gordon, GA; 1975 1st Armored Divison N.C.O. Academy; B.S., 1979 Goldey Beacom College; 1985 State of Delaware CPA Certificate

Work Experience: 1975-76 unit police team chief - U.S. Army Sergeant; 1976-77 Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation - Elsmere, armed and/or dog handler security officer; 1977-2014 career development positions as bookkeeper, bank auditor, CPA Senior field auditor, tax enforcement auditor, company president and treasurer.

Family: Daughter, Patricia C. Graham, 25; nephew, Derek M. Graham, 26

Reason for running: Delaware needs a house-cleaning, and it starts this year by the voters of Delaware electing a truly independent attorney general. As chief law enforcement officer, the attorney general is a general in command of army of attorneys.

In the state of Delaware, the office of attorney general has turned into an incubator for career politicians, with the end result of too many decisions by the AG being based on politics – not the law. As the Independent Party of Delaware candidate for attorney general I seek the endorsement of only one constituency – the citizens of Delaware.

Theodore A. “Ted” Kittila

Republican candidate

Age: 40

Residence: Greenville

Education: B.A. University of Delaware; Fulbright Scholarship, Goethe University; J.D. University of Minnesota Law School

Work experience: courtroom attorney, founding partner at Greenhill Law Group; former shareholder with Elliott Greenleaf; associate at Morris Nichols (Wilmington), Paul Hastings (New York) and Weil Gotshal (New York)

Family: wife, Anne-Laure, two children, Alex, 9, and CC, 6

Reason for running: Delaware voters need a real choice on Election Day. My Democratic opponent is a career politician who is using this office as a stepping stone for his next higher office. I'm a courtroom attorney who has a passion for practicing law. Delaware needs a practicing attorney to run this office, and I look forward to serving as the People's Advocate.

John Machurek

Libertarian candidate

Age: 28

Residence: New Castle

Education: William Penn High School

Work experience: Online blogger and social media correspondent for The Inscriber Digital Magazine

Family:

Reason for running: I started my campaign as a protest candidacy against Beau Biden, because of how he and his office have handled crime in this state. Crime has plagued Delaware, especially in Wilmington. Wilmington was recently voted the most dangerous small city in America. That is not
something to be proud of and we need to curb serious crime in this state.

I believe that at times the state has not focused on real crimes and has rather been interested in arresting people with marijuana. Another problem is our family court system and it is in need of serious reform.

 


Questions

 

  1. Under current police policy, state police release almost no information about a crime under investigation. Several murders in Sussex County remained unsolved while almost no information has been released about several fatal crashes. Do you believe the public is entitled to more information about serious crimes? What steps would you take as AG to give the public more information about serious incidents?

Damavandi: Although the Attorney General is called Delaware’s “Top Cop” and “Chief Law Enforcement Officer,” the Attorney General cannot order a police agency to release information about an ongoing investigation. The public may want more details about an incident, but the police may be delaying the release of this information because it will compromise their investigation. However, if the public suspects a police department’s silence is due to an improperly stalled investigation, I would direct the Attorney General’s Special Investigations Unit to look into the matter. This unit is responsible for investigating Delaware agencies and officials for improper conduct.

Denn: I believe that the public should have as much information as possible about unsolved crimes, provided that disclosure of that information does not jeopardize the successful investigation and prosecution of those crimes. These situations must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with the ultimate goal being the safety of the public.

Graham: As a former U.S. Supreme Court judge was quoted, "Sunshine is the best disinfectant." In Delaware, while our license tags read "The First State" perhaps, with the recently proposed changes to the Delaware tags, consideration should be given to changing it to read," The Secret State." As attorney general I would advocate the release of all information legally permissable in the public interest and advocate for changes to the laws that unjustly conceal information from the public.

Kittila: While the AG’s Office needs to take steps to not jeopardize the investigation of crimes by releasing information prematurely (specifically where investigative leads are being pursued, witnesses questioned), the public needs to have confidence that every effort is being made to solve these crimes. As an attorney, I have pushed for open courts and believe that a healthy relationship with the media and the AG’s Office is the best way to share updates regarding investigations.

Machurek: The state needs to do a better job of sharing information with the public. Sometimes the best help can come from a citizen, seeing information on a case. The public is entitled to information of crimes happening in their area. As AG I would send out press releases to be shared on local television, radio, and the internet.

 

  1. Several recent arrests in Sussex County involved convicted pedophiles who met in prison and networked during required counseling. What steps would you take to ensure this does not happen going forward?

Damavandi: I support continued use of the latest technology by law enforcement to stop pedophiles and child exploitation. In the Sussex County case, three sex offenders shared child pornography while living out in the community. They were also attending required sex offender counseling. Thanks to Delaware’s Child Predator Task Force and federal Homeland Security Investigations, these sex offenders were identified and prosecuted. Two of them had met in prison, where sex offenders are often housed together (so they’re not harmed by other inmates). Sex offenders might “network” in prison during chow, recreation, religious services, etc. or while living in the community.

Denn: Protecting children has been a top priority of mine as lieutenant governor, and that will continue to be the case if I am elected attorney general. I will certainly communicate with the Commissioner of Corrections about the possibility of more closely monitoring communications during these counseling sessions. However, it would be misleading and overpromising for a candidate for attorney general to claim he or she was going to be able to micromanage all interactions between all individuals in the state’s correctional facilities.

Graham: These recent arrests of pedophiles underscore the need to put the correction back in the Delaware Department of Correction. Merely restricting freedom, then releasing pedophiles back into the community without a serous effort to identify those who should not be released back into society is not acceptable. Again, as attorney general, I would advocate for the public safety from those victimized by the Revolving Door syndrome as far as permissable under current law and advocate for changes in law, funding and policy for the safety of our children, regardless of the social status of those accused of pedophilia.

Kittila: I have been very concerned about the use of our prisons as training grounds for criminals, and these allegations strike at the heart of that with respect to our most vulnerable population. I believe that the AG’s Office needs to review promptly these counseling programs to determine the true effectiveness. The state should move incredibly swiftly to modify programs that are doing more harm than good, including cutting contracts with providers that are wasting resources and jeopardizing our families.

Machurek: I would meet with counselors to see what idea they might have steps we could take to stop this from happening. One way to go about that would be to have smaller counseling sessions or even one-on-one counseling. Also, avoid housing convicted pedophiles near each other to stop networking from happening easily.

 

  1. Do you support decriminalizing marijuana? Why or why not?

Damavandi: I’ve never tried marijuana, so I don’t have the enthusiasm to legalize it that some other folks do. Like everyone else, I’m concerned about substance abuse and the drug trade in our society. California and Colorado should provide us with the evidence we need to make an informed decision on marijuana decriminalization. In 2010, California decriminalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Since the beginning of this year, marijuana has been sold legally in Colorado. Whatever Delaware decides, possession of marijuana (even for medicinal use) is still a federal offense.

Denn: I support changing our statute to make possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use a violation, as opposed to a misdemeanor. I do not support legalizing it completely. I think this approach strikes an appropriate compromise between the need to ensure that people are not unnecessarily drawn into the criminal justice system, while still discouraging the use of marijuana – particularly by children, for whom it can be a gateway to more harmful drugs.

Graham: No, I do not support the decrimalization of marijuana. Marijuana is a drug, and although I strongly support the legalization of its medical use, we cannot fall victim to the false claim that drug use is a victimless crimes. As a person who had a close family member addicted to heroin, incarcerated, rehabilitated, and now in recovery, I know drug addictions victimize family, friends and society. Wasting tax dollars to prosecute marijuana users has proven ineffective to curb drugs, and as attorney general, I will put a higher priority on prosecuting those who pose a greater threat to our state.

Kittila: As AG, I will be the chief enforcer of the laws of the State, and I will enforce the laws as written. That said, I have publicly supported decriminalization of possession. This is not the same as supporting legalization. I do not want those convicted of possession thrown into jail when our prison system is already overcrowded. This not only leads to further pressure on our prison system, as well as pressure on our courts and on our police, but will expose those accused of a nonviolent crime to convicted felons with much more severe criminal histories.

Machurek: I not only support decriminalizing marijuana, I also support full legalization. Prisons are already overcrowded and we should not be wasting resources on victimless crimes. We should regulate marijuana like alcohol. Delaware had the second-highest increase in pot possession arrest rates from 2001 to 2010, increasing 102.1 percent per 100,000 individuals in a
decade. We have already seen that it can work from the models set forth by Colorado and Washington.