By Ryan Lengerich
Eastern New Mexico residents will have their chance to drill two district attorney candidates at a forum on Tuesday.
The event will pit 9th Judicial District Attorney Brett Carter against opponent Matt Chandler in a public debate organized by a Clovis Community College student legal group.
The event begins at 7:30 p.m. at the CCC Town Hall.
Renee Sandoval of the Clovis Legal Association, said the debate will be directed by a moderator and will allow the public to submit questions in writing prior to the start.
“We’re definitely going to touch on some issues that are very important that I know Mr. Chandler and Mr. Carter feel strongly about,” Sandoval said. “I don’t think there is going to be any nastiness but I hope to see passion from both sides.”
Chandler, a 28-year-old Eastern New Mexico University graduate, served as assistant district attorney under Carter before being fired in February when he declined to back Carter’s decision to run for district attorney.
Carter was appointed to fill a vacancy in 2002 when Randy Harris left the DA’s office. Carter won an uncontested election for the post in November 2002.
Carter said the debate will exploit the experience advantage he has over Chandler.
“I have been at this job for 17 years and he was a prosecutor for about a year and a half,” Carter said. “I think experience counts, especially when you are dealing with the number of homicide cases that our office is currently prosecuting.”
Chandler contends that he has several new ideas for the office, and he feels the voters will pay more attention to those than to his age.
“I think that my track record proves effectiveness,” Chandler said. “I plan on bringing a lot of crime prevention programs into the office. I’m looking forward to the forum to explain what these programs are and what to do to decrease the crime rate.”
Organizers expect the debate to last about 90 minutes depending on public turnout. Sandoval said the candidates will not be briefed in advance on the questions and no question is off limits, though organizers will not allow personal attacks.
“There are definitely going to be some situational questions and there are going to be some questions about crime statistics,” she said.
Carter said he welcomes questions about crime. He said the rise in methamphetamine use in the city and spike in violent crimes are key issues in this election.
“Always in the public’s mind is the violent crimes,” he said. “The number of homicides that our jurisdiction is facing, that is a concern to the majority of the individuals in Roosevelt and Curry counties.”
Chandler, meanwhile, hopes to instill a proactive attitude.
“I think we can bring a new sense of accountability into criminals,” Chandler said. “We can go after the repeat offenders, and we can do proactive programs … that prevent crime before it happens.”
Chandler also said he is looking forward to creating better communication with local law enforcement, and said he is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police.
A voter registration booth will be on hand at the debate and CCC student government will provide refreshments afterward. Sandoval said the two candidates have agreed to meet with the public at the event’s conclusion.
The two Republican candidates will face each other in a June 1 primary. The general election will be held on Nov. 2.
PNT Managing Editor Kevin Wilson contributed to this report.