Harney County Farm Bureau hosted a public forum for candidates running for district attorney and sheriff on Wednesday, March 30, in the Memorial Building at the Harney County Fairgrounds. Barry Bushue, president of Oregon Farm Bureau and past vice president of American Farm Bureau Federation, served as the moderator.
The forum began with opening statements from each of the candidates.
Candidates for district attorney
A 2002 graduate of Burns High School, Tim Beaubien was elected the associated student body justice his senior year. He was also involved in teen court, a program that allowed teen offenders to appear in front of a jury of their peers, while other students assumed prosecution and defense roles.
After high school, Beaubien attended the University of Notre Dame. He then began working for a law firm in Ontario, which inspired him to attended Notre Dame Law School.
During his third year of law school, Beaubien went to court and defended people who couldn’t afford attorneys.
“I worked with prosecutors, I worked with witnesses, and most of my cases came to some sort resolution — whether it was dismissal, whether it was the defendant taking responsibility and pleading guilty — and we always worked for what was the just result, what was the right thing to do,” he said.
Beaubien said he also focused on what was going to happen to his clients after they got out of jail.
“I think that’s a big thing that we need to answer,” he said. “The people that we’re arresting and taking to trial, they’re our neighbors, they’re people here in the community, they might be the people who live next door, and when they get out, we want to make sure that they’re in a place where they’re not going to cause more problems.”
Beaubien added that he loved his time in Burns and would like to move back to the area.
“After law school, I got a job over in Boise. Then I got a job over in Ontario. Right now, I’m working in John Day. I’m getting closer and closer and closer,” he said.
Beaubien added that, because Grant and Harney counties are in the same judicial district, he regularly appears in front of Circuit Court Judge William D. Cramer Jr.
“I really like what I do here in criminal law. I stand up for people’s constitutional rights. I think that’s very important,” he said. “When someone is accused of a crime, and they’re told, ‘You have a right to an attorney,’ that’s me.”
He added, “I do feel that running for district attorney and being your district attorney is the best way that I can give back to this community. I got a lot of support from Burns, Hines, Drewsey, all of Harney County in my education and my pursuits, and I really feel that this is the best way for me to use my talents, and do what’s best, and give back to the community.”
Joseph Lucas grew up in Hillsboro, the oldest of five children. He was involved in track, cross country, and wrestling when he was in high school, and was a four-year starter on the NCAA Division 1 men’s wrestling team at the University of Oregon (UO).
He originally intended to major in a science field and go on to be an optometrist or medical doctor.
“Then, I got a ‘D’ in chemistry. They put letters in the equation, and I tried to start sounding them out, and it didn’t work out too well,” he joked. “So, after I did that, I kind of had to reevaluate where I was headed.”
He ultimately decided to obtain a law degree. After graduating from UO, he attended law school at Willamette University. While enrolled in the three-year program, Lucas worked 70 to 80 hours a week during the school year and about 60 hours a week during the summer.
“Now, part of the reason why I was working that many hours was because I was also clerking at the district attorney’s office. And my third year in law school, I was basically acting as a deputy district attorney. I was prosecuting cases. I had a 100 plus caseload. At one point, I had more cases than anyone else in the office, including the full-time deputy district attorneys. I still managed to graduate in the top 10 percent of my law school class.”
After graduating, Lucas started looking for a prosecutor job.
“I wanted to be a prosecutor because, one time, I was having trouble with a defense attorney. I thought he was being kind of sneaky, hiding stuff, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. So I went to a more senior prosecutor, and I asked him for advice, and he looked at me and said, ‘We are the state. We always do the right thing.’ That’s when it clicked. That’s when I decided I was going to be a prosecutor. I don’t want to practice any other type of law,” he said.
He added that, as a prosecutor, he can resolve every decision by asking himself, “What is the right thing to do?”
Lucas, who has served as the Harney County deputy district attorney since 2011, explained, “That’s what I love about this job.”
Candidates for sheriff
“It is all about what’s right,” Alan Johnson said.
Johnson, who retired from Oregon State Police (OSP) last November, grew up in a family of seven boys and two girls in New Plymouth, Idaho.
“That was an experience in itself,” he said. “We didn’t have to ask people to come over and play because we were the people that played together.”
Johnson started his career in law enforcement in 1985, serving as a reserve officer in the small town of Dundee. After five years, he became a full-time officer, serving another seven and half years in the area. In 1998, he received a position with OSP and was stationed at the Burns office.
Explaining why he’d like to become sheriff, Johnson said, “My whole emphasis is on you,” adding that he’d love to have the opportunity to serve others.
“It’s not about the citation or the arrest. It’s about how we deal with the people, and that’s the opportunity that I’d like to have,” he said, explaining that, after finishing a contact or arresting someone, he asked himself, “Did I take care of that person? Did I take care of him so that when he gets out of jail, that he’s a better person?”
He added, “Really, it’s all about you folks. I’ve enjoyed being with you for 18 years, and I hope to do that longer.”
Incumbent Dave Ward has been the Harney County sheriff for about 14 months. He was appointed to the position when the previous sheriff retired midterm.
Ward grew up in Drain where he participated in FFA, wrestling, football and track and worked in the forest with his father.
Although he originally aspired to be a rancher, he ended up with a career in law enforcement.
After high school, Ward followed in the footsteps of his father and older brother by joining the military. He served a combined 21 years, including active duty, National Guard and Army Reserve. Ward spent time in Somalia, where her served as a combat medic, and in Afghanistan, where one of his missions was to mentor Afghan basic training.
“I wouldn’t trade any of it. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t always fun. But I’ll tell you what, I knew I wanted to serve, and I did,” he said.
Ward, who has also worked in mills and on ranches, said he got into law enforcement in 2002, after his last active duty enlistment in the Army.
He has served as a corrections deputy, parole officer, and patrol deputy.
“The unique thing about that is I’m one of the very few people in the state of Oregon that’s been to the police academy and certified in three different disciplines,” he explained.
Questions for candidates
Each of the candidates were given two to three minutes to answer questions tailored to their desired position.
Candidates for district attorney were asked to discuss their qualifications for administering the position, describe their relationship with local law enforcement, state the number of trials and felony cases that they’ve been involved in, and discuss their most difficult case. They were also asked to explain how they’d reduce the cost of the judicial administration, interact with state legislature and/or the governor’s office to address criminal justice policy, and what they’d do if they observed someone being poorly represented by an unprepared or ineffective lawyer. The candidates were also asked to describe how they interact with people who are different from them and to share their greatest accomplishments in their legal careers and personal lives.
The candidates for sheriff were asked to discuss their experience with managing employees and budgets, completing timely/proficient reports, serving civil process papers, and supervision. They were also asked to share their views on service in law enforcement, animal neglect cases, the county’s most significant law enforcement issues, stretching tax payer dollars, concealed carry, and carrying out law enforcement on public lands. Given that the office of sheriff is the only law enforcement position elected solely by the people, the candidates were also asked to discuss who they would be responsible to and who they would answer to.
Additionally, all of the candidates were asked to share how they’ve improved their community.
After the question and answer period, each of the candidates were given an opportunity to share their closing statements.
Beaubien said he believes he’s the best person for the job, adding that he’s spent the last several years defending peoples’ rights, and he doesn’t think that will change if he becomes district attorney. He described criminal defense and prosecution as “two sides of the same coin,” explaining that it takes both sides to make the system work.
If elected, one of Beaubien’s goals as district attorney will be to promote transparency.
He concluded, “This really is an opportunity for one of your homegrown Burns boys to come back to Harney County to give back and to serve.”
However, Lucas said he thinks prosecutors and defense attorneys have two very different jobs.
“Prosecutors represent the people, and that includes the defendant’s interests, where as the defense attorney just represents one specific person, and his job is to vigorously defend that person’s interests,” he asserted.
Lucas added that he’s running for district attorney because his mission in life is to promote the welfare, health and safety of society through being a prosecutor.
“I am deeply invested in this community. I’m a career prosecutor. I’ve reviewed thousands of charges, I’ve handled hundreds and hundreds of cases, and I’ve been preparing over the last four years for this opportunity to take the reins,” he said.
Johnson said he loves being a police officer, adding that it’s been part of his life for 30 years. He described his diverse range of experience, including serving as a city officer, D.A.R.E. officer, a member of the Newberg-Dundee combined SWAT team, and a drug recognition expert.
He added, “I look around the room here, and I probably know about every one of you by face. I’m horrible with names, but I would recognize your faces, and I’ve even stopped a few of you. But I hope that that contact was a good contact, and I hope that one of the reasons why you would vote for me is because of that contact — the way I treated you, the way I treated the people, the way I treated people who didn’t belong to this area — because that’s who I am.”
Certified in three different disciplines, Ward said his law enforcement experience is broad. He added that he brings a lot of experience to the table through his 21 years of military service, and he’s had a lot of experience managing people (including those who don’t speak English).
He said he believes he did the best job he could in every situation.
Ward concluded by encouraging the community to come together to accomplish its goals, stating, “We have the opportunity to work together, mend fences, and show the rest of the world that we can settle our differences and set the example that needs to be set across the country.”
The candidates for district attorney will appear on the ballot for the primary election, which will be held May 17. However, the candidates for sheriff will only appear on the ballot for the general election, which will be held in November.