Area attorney challenging current DA
Incumbent Kenney facing Eudora prosecutor Branson for district attorney seat
The Douglas County District Attorney race is pitting an experienced DA against an area attorney with new ideas for the office. Incumbent Christine Kenney, a Republican, is on the ballot against Democrat opponent Charles Branson in Tuesday's election.
Branson said he was disappointed with the "substandard" conviction rates in the county.
"I don't think that's a good enough answer for Douglas County," Branson said. "I don't think our trial record is what it should be."
The Lawrence attorney and part-time Eudora prosecutor also wants a consumer protection division at the local district attorney's office modeled on similar offices in Sedgwick County and other places in Kansas. That way, Branson said, consumers and businesses could mitigate their problems locally without going through Topeka.
"We think Douglas County can do better," he said.
Kenney, who has been Douglas County District attorney since 1996 and a prosecutor in the office for 15 years, has her own goals for localizing service. Kenney said developing a child abuse center in Douglas County would provide a central location of services for those affected.
"We're trying to reduce the trauma to the victim and build a solid case against the perpetrator," she said.
During the past six years, Kenney said the DA's office had been working with healthcare professionals and advocates to develop services for sexual assault survivors. With the increase of elder abuse, the office began about four years ago the office focusing training and education on why senior citizens were targeted for abuse, Kenney said.
Kenney said the office was also part of a development team to create prosecutor software available across the state. Involvement like that didn't have a direct impact on the courtroom, she said, but served as an important support tool.
"Those are some of the things that my office has tried to focus on in terms of taking a proactive approach," she said.
However, Branson said he took issue with how budget increases in the DA's office seemed to have no effect on programs. One of Branson's ideas is a program allowing witnesses called by the court to visit the courthouse, meet a prosecutor and ease apprehensions they may have about the process.
People's first access to the judicial process, he said, was often being served a subpoena at 7 a.m.
"Right now, victims and witnesses don't start out well in the courtroom," he said. "(A program) makes them better witnesses for the state. It makes convictions easier to get."
Whereas Branson trumps his ideas to invigorate the office, Kenney said she considered her strength to be experience running the office and prosecuting a variety of cases from abuse and neglect to misdemeanors and felonies.
"I've worked on every type of case in every area our office touches," she said.