By Anne Meyer
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
9:51 PM CDT, June 21, 2012
It's one of the first of what will likely be many political candidate forums this year. Republican candidates in three key Sedgwick County races took questions from voters Thursday night
Candidates in the race for Sedgwick County Sheriff, Sedgwick County District Attorney and the District 3 County Commissioner seat.
It wasn't a debate. instead candidates in each race answered the same question. There was only enough time for candidates to answer two questions. But the topics covered could be key issues in these elections.
In the race for Sedgwick County District Attorney, the first question asked was what critical change will you make in office. Marc Bennett currently works in that office, his challenger Kevin O'Connor used to. Both are trying to take over for Nola Folston who is retiring after 25 years.
"To suggest after 25 years that that office doesn't need a fundamental change, I think is not recognizing the problems that exist," O'Connor said.
"Nola Folston is not in this race, she will be gone," Bennett said. "You are going to have a new DA come August 8 one way or the other, the question is who is going to come in and actually have something to offer to the office."
Taxes were a big topic of interest for County Commissioner candidates. Incumbent Karl Peterjohn vowed to keep property taxes low and talked of his history of balancing the county's budget.
He faces Wichita City Council member Jeff Longwell, who also talked of his success in balancing the city's budget without using cash reserves. A move he says the county has done before.
Recent headlines came up in the race for Sedgwick County Sheriff. Each candidate was asked how they would correct the current internal problems at the jail, which is a reference to the recent jail rape investigation involving a detention deputy.
"My job is to hold those people accountable, and thats what we have always done in the sheriffs office," Sheriff Bob Hinshaw says. "If we have an allegation, we aggressively investigate it. We take it where the investigation leads us regardless of where that may be, sometimes it leads us to charging our own."
But challenger Jeff Easter, a Wichita Police Captain, says reporting those crimes should change..
"Under my management that is some policy changes I would make immediately," Easter said. "The first phone call is to the District Attorney's office, the second phone call is to an outside agency to assist with any criminal investigation. It happens when officers are involved in officer involved shootings, so it should happen when officers are involved in criminal activity."
The primary election is August 7. That means candidates have 47 days left to win over voters.
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