Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Candidates for Shawnee County offices want to improve county services, ...

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Candidates for Shawnee County offices want to improve county services, ...

Article excerpt

Candidates for Shawnee County offices want to improve county services, even as they wrestle with how much to spend and split over specific reforms.

Those vying for district attorney, sheriff and county commission all express a desire for government to work better, though they sometimes differ on how to get there.

Voters will have to sort out who is right when they head to the polls Aug. 2 for the primary election.

The Topeka Capital-Journal recently surveyed candidates for county offices. Candidates answered a variety of questions about how they would handle their jobs and the challenges that they would face.

District attorney

The three Republican candidates for Shawnee County District Attorney offer three distinct approaches to the office. With no Democrats running, the primary election will likely determine who will become the county's next top prosecutor.

Each candidate comes with a different relationship to the office.

Mike Kagay is currently an assistant prosecutor under Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, who isn't running for re- election. More than the other two candidates, Kagay would largely maintain the course within the office.

While Kagay indicates he will continue to push the office toward greater efficiency, he said he would continue to emphasize the prosecution of homicides (including cold cases), sex trafficking and sexual assaults, especially on children.

"We will put an end to the gang violence, and we will relentlessly pursue those who distribute methamphetamine in Shawnee County," Kagay wrote.

Karen Wittman promises an immediate evaluation of the office's needs. Wittman is a former assistant attorney general and former assistant Shawnee County district attorney.

Wittman said she will look at personnel needs, continue to build relationships with law enforcement and ensure open communication between law enforcement and her office.

"I have responded to scenes at all hours. When I and/or my staff have Duty DA responsibilities, there will be no miscommunication and we will be available to law enforcement whenever needed," Wittman wrote.

Keen Umbehr would offer the most significant change to the prosecutor's office. Umbehr, who ran in 2014 as a Libertarian candidate for governor and is an attorney, promises to respect the constitutional rights of the accused.

Umbehr has been sharply critical of Taylor's handling of the office and Taylor's 2012 prosecution of Dana Chandler.

"Prosecutors have an ethical duty to protect the constitutional rights of everyone involved, while at the same time vigorously prosecuting those individuals who violate the law. Any prosecutor that knowingly disregards this responsibility or engages in a systematic abuse of their prosecutorial discretion will be terminated," Umbehr wrote. …

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