A not-so-puzzling race for District Attorney in Jackson County

Paulie Brading

Back in May of 2010 Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) announced that Rob Patridge would serve as the district director and general counsel. Walden cited Patridge's experience as a state representative, Medford City councilman, deputy district attorney, and work as general counsel for Pacific Retirement Services, operators of the Rogue Valley Manor and other retirement facilities. Patridge's work in the district attorney's office was brief.

In August 2011 Patridge announced he would run for the position of Jackson County District Attorney. One month later Mark Huddleston, the current District Attorney announced he was retiring on September 15, 2011. Patridge served three terms in the state legislature and was the majority whip for the GOP.

In making the retirement announcement, Huddleston endorsed Chief Deputy District Attorney Beth Heckert for her race for the position of Jackson County District Attorney.

He stated, "Beth Heckert is clearly the most qualified candidate for this position."

Heckert has been with the prosecutor's office for 23 years, after being hired immediately out of Willamette Law School. She is the lead prosecutor on the recent Criado murder case, in which a Medford man is accussed of killing his entire family.

Beth Heckert has dedicated herself soley to being a prosecutor. She has handled over 1,000 felony cases, and taken more than 100 to trial. She has prosecuted more homicide cases than any other attorney in the office.

Her work with child abuse victims, the drug task force and juveniles is well known among those of us in the public school community. Having served as a mandated reporter of child abuse for 32 years I learned early on how essential a very good prosecutor is to bringing justice regarding juveniles and child abuse victims. Beth Heckert is also known for her tireless work with the drug task force.

Beth Heckert has made it her lifetime goal to become the Jackson County District Attorney. Like many professional women she worked, raised her children in Medford while commuting to Willamette Law School.

Beth's passion is serving the people of Jackson County and Oregon.

A visit to Heckert's facebook page and Patridge's facebook page illustrates their differences. Patridge has launched a political campaign. Heckert has not.

I'm endorsing Beth Heckert for Jackson County District Attorney. I want a prosecutor protecting our citizens. She's going up against a political player.

Patridge said he'd like to see the district attorney's office be more collaborative with such non-profit groups such as the Southern Oregon Meth Project and law enforcements agencies.

The level of collaboration is already extemely high in the District Attorney's office. I know because I sit on the school safety and security committee with Medford police officers, and several other agencies working very hard on crime prevention.

What's the real reason for the run? Could it be an attempt to win this race and then jump to a race for Governor or Walden's slot? The establishment R's have signed on to the Patridge campaign with gusto.

Watch this race and its consequences.

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    Thank you. This sounds like a local race with big implications. Please keep us posted!

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    Not being a Republican, or an establishment anything, it's not hard to see why Rob Patridge would make a better District Attorney, than would a life-long prosecutor. First, we have to evaportate the myth that DAs the #1 prosecutor for a county; they are the chief and administrator of law enforcement, true. They have to choose good deputies and make good assignments, but also have to be able to interact with all the other politicians and bureaucracies.

    Second, District Attorneys don't just deal with criminal prosecution. A lawyer whose entire career has been focused on proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt will not be in a position to deal with the host of civil proceedings with which a District Attorney must grapple.

    Third, not being a resident of Jackson County, my most immediate example of a DA is Mike Schrunk. He's been a successful DA for decades because he can deal with the politics that weaves the DA's office into the rest of local government (police, city hall, etc.).

    And fourth, Rob Patridge has shown himself to be a principled person, who will stand up for what he believes is right. He was one of a handful of legislators who stood up against the heavy-handed tactics of former-speaker Snodgrass, bucking many in his party, because he wanted to do the right thing. (In my view, he is one of the very few Oregon Republicans left in this state -- taking his lead from Hatfield and Packwood).

    Because a DA's job involves criminal prosecution, civil litigation, administration, business, and politics, it's hard to think of anyone in the state who is better positioned to be a District Attorney.

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    I think it's just about a guy who would like to be the DA.

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    Of course this must all be part of a strategy by Rob Pattridge to become the latest in a long line of district attorneys to be elected governor of Oregon, following in the footsteps of . . . um . . . you know . . . um . . . you remember . . .

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