News Section: Election 2012
Race Analysis: State Attorney for 12th Circuit
BRADENTON – After narrowly winning a contentious primary, Chief Assistant State Attorney Ed Brodsky is racing to the finish line for his retiring boss Ed Moreland's seat against Democratic challenger John Torraco. The winner will represent Florida's 12th circuit, which covers Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties.
The two candidates – one a long-time prosecutor questioning his opponent's experience for the job, the other a political outsider alleging systemic incompetency in the office that
his opponent is an instrumental part of – have sparred heavily over the conviction rate numbers churned out over the last 8 years by the state attorney's office, with Mr. Torraco alleging that the numbers show failure and Mr. Brodsky claiming that they show "a great job" done by the office.
Each campaign has been using different statistics to prove the other's claims wrong. Mr. Torraco has cited numbers showing a 57 percent average rate, which is indeed not a very high number. But Mr. Brodsky has dismissed his opponent's 57 percent claim. Speaking to TBT over the phone last month, Brodsky defended the record of the office, noting that the conviction rate average in the last 8 years has been 76 percent when the numbers include guilty pleas. "I'm very pleased with our office and with the work that we're doing," he said.
More recently, he said it was "patently wrong" for Mr. Torraco to not include plea deals in his numbers. Others say that since plea bargains do not expose the talent level of a prosecutor that is shown from won trials, separating them from conviction rates does not make claims like Torraco's illegitmate.
Experience has also been a major talking point in the race. Mr. Brodsky has cited his own depth of career work as a prosecutor for 20 years in the State Attorney's office, and Mr. Torraco's lack of prosecutorial experience to question whether his opponent is ready to take on the job of State Attorney.
In turn, Mr. Torraco has argued that he has a different and better angle on the criminal justice system due to his work outside the Florida court system. He claims he will bring a broader perspective on criminal justice than Mr. Brodsky, saying he is the only candidate "who can compare what works and what doesn't ... what is going on here in the 12th Judicial Circuit is not working." He has also cited his work for the White House Counsel's office and the Department of Justice while attending Georgetown University, as well as clerking for two federal judges, as a counterargument to Brodsky's inexperience claim.
The general election race, though not as volatile and personal as the bitter campaign fought between Mr. Brodsky and his primary opponent Peter Lombardo, has seen plenty of tension over recent news of state law violations committed by employees of the State Attorney's office in using DAVID, or the Driver and Vehicle Information Database, to search for information on Mr. Torraco. Searches of the database are only to be used for cases, and are considered illegal if used for other purposes.
The State Attorney's office professed no wrongdoing or malicious intentions in its official findings for an investigation into the incident, claiming that the two secretaries who misused the database – one of whom is Mr. Brodsky's assistant, and has since received a verbal reprimand for her actions – acted alone, and that the results of the DAVID searches were not communicated to anyone. Mr. Torraco has not been appeased, calling the searches "an example of either rogue tactics or profound mismanagement" on the part of Mr. Brodsky, who has retorted that he did not condone or authorize the searches, and that Mr. Torraco has brought up the incident for political purposes.
The two candidates have both expressed their desire to go after pill mills, white collar crime and gang violence harder. One major issue in approaching how to deal with crime in the community that they disagree on is the idea of a "hot list" of repeat offenders that would be used by law enforcement in an effort to help monitor those offenders more closely. Mr. Brodsky has proposed the creation of such a list, citing statistics which say that 60 percent of crime is commited by roughly 6 percent of the population. Mr. Torraco has disputed his opponent's citation, saying such numbers are based on a 1945 study that was done in Philadelphia, and was not an empirical study. He has also claimed that using such a list would be unconstitutional. Mr. Brodsky has dismissed the constitutionality argument in part because others are doing it: "It's a practice that's been utilized all over the country," he has said.
Both candidates have received major endorsements. Mr. Torraco's notable ones include Ron Smith, former state attorney for the 8th Judicial Circuit, as well as the Sarasota-based International Union of Police Associations. In addition to having been endorsed by Earl Moreland, Mr. Brodsky has also picked up endorsements by the three sherrifs of ManDeSota, as well as Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. Mr. Torraco has made an issue of his opponent's Sherrif endorsements, saying it shows the possibility of conflict of interest in the relationships between police and prosecution, and that such relationships should include "professional boundaries, mutual respect, and above all, objectivity and independence." Mr. Brodsky has said that strong relationships between the two agencies is "imperative," and that poor relationships between them lead to a marked decrease in the conviction rate and quality of prosecutions.
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