Prosecuting Attorney will be chosen Aug. 6 primary election

Linda Trest
Staff Writer

All county office holders will be decided in next week’s Aug. 7, primary election. In many cases, only one person entered a race. There were no Democratic candidates to file for a county office. 

A few races, such as the fight for Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney, had two or more Republicans throw their hat into the ring. The winners in Tuesday’s primary  election will face no challengers in November. 

Matthew Becker and Samantha Cerutti Wacker are both seeking the office of Prosecuting Attorney. Robert Parks, the county’s current prosecuting attorney, is not seeking reelection. 

Wacker is a lifelong resident of Washington. She has been married to Trent Wacker since 1995 and they are raising four children. 

Becker was born and raised on a farm outside of Gerald, but currently resides in Washington. He and his wife, Belinda have two daughters.

Both Becker and Wacker were asked two questions in an effort to help voters make a choice in this race. 

The first was, “If elected, what is the most important change you will make as the Franklin County prosecuting attorney?”

Becker replied with a three-part answer:

1. To bring a sense of urgency to prosecution. Presently, there are unnecessary delays in Franklin County’s Criminal Justice System. These include delays in getting criminal charges issued after the police have completed their investigation and delays that occur in Court after the charges are issued. This is especially tragic in cases where child victims are involved. I know we can do better because I have worked in an office where charges were routinely issued within one day of an officer’s completion of his or her investigation; I have worked in an office where prosecutors were expected to be ready to set a case for trial shortly after it was issued.  I will implement these procedures in the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

2. To have a greater level of victim involvement and engagement.  There are some fine people doing good work as victim advocates for the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney’s office.  That being said, victims deserve an opportunity to speak face to face with a prosecutor so that a prosecutor explains the process to the victim and ensures that the victim fully understands his or her rights, including the right to speak in court.

3. To take on the opioid epidemic head on and aggressively prosecute drug traffickers. To better utilize private sector rehabilitative services that are long term (12 months or more) in nature for defendants who are not selling drugs and are not otherwise involved in criminal activity.

Wacker offered the following response to the same questions as to changes she would make:

The most important change that I will make in the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will be to bring the values of competence, cooperation, compassion, and commitment to everything that we do. Our community deserves to have a Prosecuting Attorney who is competent to lead, to teach, to manage, and to effectively represent victims and the community in court. We deserve a Prosecuting Attorney who knows how to communicate and cooperate with law enforcement and other agencies. Crime victims and their families deserve compassionate, respectful treatment from the Prosecuting Attorney at all times. Commitment isn’t just a word; it is a rootedness in our community that puts values into action. By bringing these values to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, my team will serve the needs of our community and make our people proud.

Both candidates were then asked, “Specifically, how are you better suited for the position than your opponent?”

Wacker replied: I am the only candidate who is a lifelong resident of Franklin County. I am the only candidate who has actually worked in the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. I have spent my lifetime living, working, and volunteering in the real world of the community that I love and seek to serve.

I have the most experience as a trial attorney, the most education, and the most experience running a business. I am, by far, the most qualified candidate for this position. To clearly see the differences between my opponent and me, I would invite and encourage everyone to go to my Facebook page and watch the video of us, side by side, addressing the community at the Franklin County Republican Central Committee Ice Cream Social.

Becker’s response was this:

Experience. I served for three years as a police officer. It is extremely beneficial for a prosecutor to have real world law enforcement experience. I am better able to explain to a judge or jury what happened in the real world. Just as a teacher who has actually worked in the field that they are educating their students in has advantages over a teacher who has never done what he’s teaching his students to do, a prosecutor who has been a police officer is better able to educate a judge or jury not only what happened, but what sentence is required to reduce the risk that this offender will be back in a few months, having committed the same crime.  As a former police officer,  I know that the stakes of our present drug crises are life and death. I know this because I have been to the homes of good, decent parents, and had to carry out their dead child who had overdosed. It is this experience that will drive me to work tirelessly to fight Franklin County’s opioid epidemic.

I am the candidate with the most prosecutorial experience.  The difference between a regular attorney who perhaps handles only divorces and someone who is qualified to be a prosecutor is the ability to prepare for and conduct jury trials. My experience conducting criminal jury trials as a prosecutor dwarfs my opponent’s.  I have likely conducted seven times as many jury trials, and have sent vastly more felons to prison. I am also the only candidate who has ever trained another prosecutor on how to conduct a jury trial. I am also the only candidate whose area of practice in the private sector includes handling complex litigation, up to and including wrongful death cases, where jury trials are involved.

I am the candidate with management experience. The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is effectively the largest law firm in Franklin County. While my opponent does own her own business, she is a solo practitioner. As the managing partner of a civil litigation firm with multiple attorneys, I am the only candidate with experience managing other attorneys. Just as the Prosecuting Attorney needs to hire assistant prosecutors, I have had to decide which attorneys would join my firm; my opponent has never made such a decision.  Just as the Prosecuting Attorney needs to establish procedures to ensure that multiple attorneys are completing multiple assignments, I have made decisions on how to efficiently and effectively manage a team of attorneys handling thousands of cases; my opponent has never addressed a problem of that nature.

Both candidates have Facebook pages that provide more details of their education, volunteer experience and religious affiliations.