ELIZABETHTOWN - Incumbent Essex County District Attorney Julie Garcia and challenger Kristy Sprague faced off in a debate at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School Aug. 27, exchanging barbs for more than an hour on subjects such as conviction records and fiscal responsibility.
Sprague, who has 11 years of experience as an Assistant District Attorney in Clinton County, won a coin toss and was the first to field a question chosen by moderators from public submissions.
Sprague challenged Garcia's skills as a prosecutor and her commitment to fiscal responsibility, claiming that Garcia had inflated her department's budget.
"A drug case dismissed for lack of evidence, another drug case dismissed for lack of evidence and failure to provide the Grand Jury enough evidence and instructions," Sprague said, brandishing case records. "These are very basic things a District Attorney has to do. If anyone has ever heard the phrase 'convict a ham sandwich,' well, this administration couldn't."
Garcia countered by criticizing Sprague on her ego, accusing her of providing misleading information and using fear tactics to acquire votes. She said the budget in her department has actually decreased 12 percent during her tenure, and said office staff has dropped from 11 employees to eight.
"When anyone tries to play on the public's fear, I think it's completely inappropriate," Garcia said. "Going through specific cases without giving all of the background information is a tactic; it's called a fear tactic."
While her records are readily available, Garcia claimed the Clinton County District Attorney had refused requests to release information about Sprague's record as a prosecutor, making it difficult to make comparisons.
"I've got nothing to hide," she said.
Sprague blamed Garcia for mounting a lawsuit that aimed to disqualify Sprague's petition signatures on the basis of her living outside Essex County. She even accused Garcia of sending a registered sex offender whom she had prosecuted for rape to her home to serve notice for the suit, which was rejected Aug. 14.