Last Tuesday, voters in Deschutes County overwhelmingly elected a new district attorney, John Hummel. The race against incumbent Patrick Flaherty had been the most heated race in the May elections. Each candidate approached the position with a very different personality and diametrically opposed philosophical ideas about the role of the DA, with Hummel believing that the position should act more as team manager, while Flaherty vowed to continue to stay in the trenches and do bare-knuckle battle with the most serious criminals.
A day after his victory, The Source caught up with Hummel and received exclusive insights into the campaign, and a preview for his first orders of business when he takes office.
The Source: Were you surprised at the results? It seemed like a really tight race, but you won pretty handily.
John Hummel: My team never predicted a margin of victory, but whenever we met voters by knocking on doors we received an overwhelming positive response, so I was not surprised we won.
SW: If you could travel back a year, what advice would you give yourself as a candidate—about running the campaign or what to expect?
JH: I would advise myself to strap in and brace for a barrage of hit-piece media coverage. Not from the Source, though.
SW: Yeah, you're welcome! We thought we covered the races fairly. But yes, the tone of coverage elsewhere was surprising to us—and you not receiving the endorsement from the Bulletin was really alarming, given the friction between that newspaper and Patrick Flaherty.
JH: I disagree with the Bulletin's endorsement decision in my race, but maintain a positive working relationship with them. During my six years on the Bend City Council they wrote many positive pieces about me as well as some negative pieces, and one thing remained constant: I was always available to talk with them. This will continue during my tenure as DA.
SW: During the campaign, you received some specific criticisms, mainly from Patrick and from the Bulletin, about perceptions about your qualifications. Which of those criticisms did/do you consider valid—and how will you address those when entering office?
JH: Many of the criticisms of me were false, but that's behind us. A true claim made by some was that I've never been a prosecutor. But on Election Day the voters were not asked to elect a prosecutor: they were asked to elect a district attorney. A DA needs to be a leader. A DA needs to be someone with executive management experience who can work as part of a team and help create an environment of professionalism, excellence, respect for taxpayer dollars and a focus on community safety. I have this experience. I'll lean on and learn from the excellent members on my team the prosecution skills I need to develop.
SW: With historically low voter turnout—and especially a preponderance of Republican voters—it is especially interesting that you received such high support; considering that, even though not a partisan race, the perception aligns you more as a Democrat and Flaherty as a Republican. Any insights into that sort of support?
JH: I'm not a member of a political party. From Day One of the campaign, I reached out to all voters in the county—regardless of where they lived and whether they belonged to a political party. I was proud to have the endorsements of all mayors in the county. And I campaigned hard in every community, including Sisters and Brothers. That's how we ended up receiving the support we received.
SW: Although receiving a large percentage of the votes, any concern that you were voted in by such a small number of residents?
JH: No concern at all. I trust my margin of victory would have been the same or greater in a November election.
SW: All right. Enough about the campaign. Looking forward: What are you least looking forward to?
JH: I can't think of any negatives to this job.
SW: OK, that is either really optimistic or myopic. More specifically, what do you plan to do your first week in office? What is your first order of business?
JH: My first order of business it to get to know everyone on the team and to ensure that pending prosecutions are not disrupted during the transition.
SW: On that matter, specifically, can we talk about Nichole Brown. She is the assistant at the DA's office, and was apparently working on Flaherty's campaign as part of her job at the DA's office. Are you going to keep her as an employee?
JH: I will not publicly talk about any particular employee, but I've said throughout my campaign, and I'll say it again now, that I will not fire any employees when I start as DA. Our team needs to focus on the important work on keeping Deschutes County safe.
SW: And, what about Flaherty? Will you offer him a prosecutorial position at the DA's office?
JH: He's not asked me for a job so I assume he's not interested.
SW: Fair enough. And the rest of the team: How do you get people to get on board with your agenda?
JH: You're not a leader if no one's following, but a competent leader knows you don't get people to follow by telling them to. I lead by example and the example I set is one of hard work, teamwork, dedication, focus, mutual respect, ethics and fun.
SW: When do you start?
JH: January. I'm taking suggestions of fun stuff to do between now and then.
SW: Well, we actually have an entire issue dedicated to summer music festivals and shows! (See pg. 9). Thanks, John. Good luck.