There's no problem boiling down the 4th Judicial District Attorney race to one simple, yet powerful word.
If you listen to incumbent John Newsome, he'd have you believe the local DA's office was lackluster and mismanaged before he took over in 2005 and that it's been a crime-busting machine during the three-plus years since.
Newsome's pitch sounds persuasive, and a closer look suggests that Newsome has done an acceptable job. But then challenger Dan May aggressively lays out his version of the facts and details, showing convincingly that Newsome's operation hasn't been as effective as advertised. (For instance, he claims Newsome's padded statistics with easy-to-convict cases).
Beyond that, however, Newsome has lost our trust.
Consider the race's most explosive issue: Newsome being caught drinking copious amounts of beer at downtown bars, returning to his office between drinking at different establishments, and driving his county vehicle along the way including after he finished polishing off the equivalent of nearly 11 beers in five hours.
Newsome admits he made a mistake. But he won't say he was impaired, insists he has no drinking problem, and suggests KOAA-Channels 5/30 might have erred in counting his drinks. He also implies that he has stopped drinking booze altogether but then he's evasive when we push for clarification.
We also are concerned that Newsome refuses to debate May. At first, Newsome agreed to such public debates, but only if the forum focused on actual DA-related issues, "not beer." May agreed to those terms. But then Newsome decided to duck out of the planned debates, most likely to avoid being questioned about the ongoing investigation into his side trip last fall to the Southern Cal-Notre Dame football game, at taxpayers' expense. (Newsome recently reimbursed the money and says he planned to do so all along, but remains under investigation.)
It's interesting that many groups and individuals, most notably El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, have not wavered in their support of Newsome. Yet May also has his share of backers, not just politicians but everyday people.
We wish this could be like 1984, the last time a drinking-related controversy affected the DA's office. Then, incumbent Bob Russel had to face a Democratic opponent, Barney Iuppa, in the general election. Iuppa prevailed to become the area's only Democratic DA in modern times.
This time, May stepped forward but no Democrat did meaning that many constituents likely won't be able to pass judgment on who should be our DA the next four years. And that's too bad.
We still hope the Democrats might be able to put forward a worthy candidate for November. Until that happens, we're left with Newsome or May.
Clearly, it's unhealthy for El Paso and Teller counties to have a DA mired in self-inflicted scandals. And the more we've looked into Dan May's record as former DA Jeanne Smith's top deputy, the more we see that he was solid and dependable, and also an effective courtroom prosecutor.
Finally, we see Newsome's budget has grown in ways he could have better controlled despite low starting salaries and limited raises for assistant DAs while May talks about reasonable ways to save the county lots of money yet still give assistant DAs (but not himself) higher pay levels.
In summary, Dan May is a safe choice, and he deserves Republicans' vote more than John Newsome. Especially when that one word trust weighs so heavily.