September 30, 2012

District attorney race offers clear choices

By Betty Adams
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- The divide could hardly be wider in the race to be the next top prosecutor in Kennebec and Somerset counties.

click image to enlarge

Darrick X. Banda is running district attorney of Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Joe Phelan Maeghan Maloney is running for district attorney of Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Campaign websites

Campaign funding
Financial snapshots of each campaign for district attorney are available from the Maine Campaign Finance website.
It shows Darrick Banda, a Republican, received contributions of $9,530 — about $7,000 of that from himself —  and spent $8,645, mostly for campaign literature, including signs.
Maeghan Maloney, a Democrat, raised $15,760, and spent $12,092, mostly on campaign literature, e-mail and food for her campaign volunteers, as well as $5,366 for campaign consultants. She and her husband contributed $1,500 to her campaign.
A number of her contributors are from New York, Chicago and California, coming from attorneys and other law professionals. Banda’s campaign contributions are mostly from Maine.

Republican Darrick X. Banda, 36, of Manchester, is running on the slogan, "Prosecutor, not Politician" -- a direct dig at his opponent.

Democrat Maeghan Maloney, 41, of Augusta, is a politician as well as an attorney, who opted against running for the re-election to a Maine House of Representatives seat so she could concentrate instead on becoming district attorney.

The two seek to finish the final two years of the term left open by Evert Fowle, the Democrat who left the office in February to become a district court judge.

The successful candidate in the Nov. 6 election will be sworn into office after Jan. 1, 2013, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Even before Maloney and Banda squared off, the race already had split the Democratic Party when members chose to nominate Maloney over acting District Attorney Alan Kelley, who was Fowle's deputy and hand-picked successor. Gov. Paul LePage, however, refused to appoint Maloney to the job temporarily, saying the 61-year-old Kelley, a Republican-turned-Democrat, should have up for consideration too.

Maloney last week announced she had the endorsement of three previous Maine attorneys general -- Andrew Ketterer, James Tierney and Janet Mills -- as well as two Somerset County commissioners.

Banda, who spent five years in the office as an assistant district attorney, has won the endorsement of David Crook, a Democrat who was Fowle's predecessor as district attorney. Banda also points to a good deal of bipartisan support from law enforcement officers and fellow attorneys.

This is the first time Banda has run for public office, but he said he has a clear idea of the district attorney's role.

"The district attorney is essentially a lawyer of the people," he said. "Victims of crimes don't have lawyers per se, and the district attorney is the closest thing we have."

His primary interest, he said, is in keeping the community safe. "Who are the people we need to be keeping in jail?" he said.

Maloney sees the district attorney's role as requiring political advocacy.

"In addition to being an effective prosecutor of criminals, the district attorney needs to be an effective advocate in the Legislature for laws and programs to address these crimes, as well as seeking adequate funding for the office to carry out these policies and help keep the citizens of Kennebec and Somerset Counties safe," she states on her website.

In a recent interview, Maloney said, "You can never be passive. You have to always be on the forefront to see we have the best laws possible to protect people."

Banda said current alternative sentencing programs work well for some offenders, and he would strengthen probation enforcement.

Banda envisions himself as a working district attorney who does trial work.

"I want to be accessible to law enforcement officers and accessible to victims," he said. "This is essentially a law firm with 10 litigators and 15 to 20 other staff members. The district attorney needs to have trial experience to manage those lawyers and get in there and try a case when necessary."

Candidates' background

Banda, a Maine native who lives in Manchester, is a 1994 graduate of Bangor High School and a 1998 graduate of the University of Maine, where he completed the Army ROTC program.

He was a summer intern to the Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and received his law degree from the University of Maine School of Law in 2001. Banda was commissioned in 1998, then spent six years in the Maine Army National Guard before being discharged honorably in February 2007.

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