State Attorney Candidates get heated at LWV Forum

The four candidates for Orange-Osceola State Attorney debated efficiency, conviction rates, and the controversial “Stand Your Ground” law at a club downtown this afternoon.

Hosted by the League of Women Voters, incumbent Lawson Lamar, prosecutor Ryan Williams, defense attorney Joerg Jaegr, and former Casey Anthony prosecutor Jeff Ashton, discussed several topics surrounding the duties of the office.

What wasn’t discussed? At least not directly? The Casey Anthony trial that took the country by storm last summer.

Lawson Lamar took an aggressive defensive stance early. He dismissed conviction rate statistics used by his biggest challenger Jeff Ashton. Lamar touted trying the hard cases and slammed the criticisms saying “it’s not about win/loss” and told the capacity audience that he’s the State Attorney that has kept the community safe.

“I’m the only attorney to get more money, and hire 30 more people.”
“We make look like Lucy in the Candy factory but justice doesn’t get ignored because we’re busy”

When referring to morale and duties in the State Attorney’s Office.

“You have to be there because you believe in justice. It’s like being an officer, preacher, and a teacher”

Jeff Ashton didn’t blink when pointing out inefficiencies with the office. He painted a picture of a lazy, and messy operation, that was being staffed by tired attorneys working in the haze of low morale. He pointed out procedures that hadn’t been changed since 1989. He believes he’s the man for the job because he’s one of them and matched Lamar with an equally deep, and edged tone.

“The present office is broke. It doesn’t work.”

“I’m surprised that people are finally talking about this race for the first time in 40 years.”

“We need to get the bang for our buck” and “Stop spending money on 15 supervisors that don’t practice law”

Ryan Williams didn’t have a bad debate. He came across as the most thoughtful candidate participating in the often contentious forum. He said that the state legislature doesn’t give the operation the funding it needs and, that the juvenile justice system is broken. He did acknowledge his younger age and mentioned that he wanted Lamar to mentor him, if he won the race but, besides from those details, he’ll get stronger the more time he spends on the stump.

“Do Justice, don’t just send people to jail and then count the number”

As the lone Republican in the race, Joegr Jaeger didn’t have to participate in the forum. He’ll have the luxury of watching the 3 Democrats battle in the primary before challenging the winner in the general election. His participation in the high profile event will raise his name ID. He touted his business experiences and other work. He also promoted a Veterans court that is performing well in Duval county.

“None of the others have run a business, and have keep to a budget”
“I’m the only one who’s won a defense case”

All four candidate opposed the current version of the “Stand Your Ground” Law surrounding the controversial Trayvonn Martin case. Lawson said the law is “confusing and easily misunderstood”. Jaeger also concurred saying it’s “many time misunderstood”. Jeff Ashton slammed the legislation, pointing to his own editorial he wrote in a response to an Orlando Sentinel column that he was offended by. Williams went a little deeper and said that the investigators involved sat on the case too long.

Absent were the fireworks of the Casey Anthony trial. Make no mistake, that possibility is what filled the venue. There was an indirect jab from Jaeger to prosecutor Jeff Ashton.

“You do not laugh at the defense attorney during closing statements when seeking the death penalty”

The publicity from that angle of the story will shed light on an important elected position overlooked during other higher profile races.