The Mirror Pond duck race, The Deschutes County Fair, The PPP and Mike Dugan. What do they all have in common? They're veritable institutions in Deschutes County. In Dugan's case, he's served as the county's "top cop" since George Bush (the original) was in the White House. Dugan hasn't faced a challenger since 1990. That's a lot of time to make enemies in a job that can be a political lightning rod. Interestingly, though, his first challenge in two decades is coming from within, sort of. Attorney Patrick Flaherty is a fellow democrat, a surprise to us given the amount of heat that Dugan has taken for his public support of the controversial tax measures 66 and 67 and his relatively prominent role in the local Democratic Party. Dugan's active role in local and state politics doesn't really bother us, after all measures 66 and 67 had as much of an impact on law enforcement budgets as it did on schools. Flaherty argues that there isn't a place for politics in the DA's office.
And we agree - up to a point. There's no evidence, however, that Dugan has been neglecting his duties as district attorney to stump for tax measures. To the contrary, Dugan has amassed an impressive record of prosecutorial success, pioneering initiatives like a bad check enforcement program and mental health and family drug treatment courts. A former chief deputy for Dugan, Flaherty said he could run the DA's office more efficiently by cutting down on redundancy and handing more discretion to individual prosecutors and that's not a bad idea. Still, we're not convinced that's enough to merit a wholesale change. Flaherty has also pushed the notion that the DA's office needs to use greater restraint when charging serious crimes, the poster child being the DA's heavy-handed treatment of street racer David Black. In that case, we agree. But we had a hard time establishing any sort of a pattern for this kind of Draconian application of the law. It's worth noting that while Mr. Dugan seems to enjoy the broad support of his staff - his deputies have all endorsed him - we get a bit of a queasy feeling at the notion of the D.A. soliciting and touting the support of his employees. What did we expect them to do? Commit career suicide?
Is there room for improvement? Sure. Is there a need for a wholesale change? We don't think so. For that reason we're endorsing Mike Dugan for district attorney.