Observer staff

Laura Eckstein

Laura Eckstein, who stepped into the role as the Elgin municipal court judge in August 2017, has been an attorney for 19 years and has worked as a prosecuting attorney, defense attorney and judge. She has practiced in both the civil and private sectors and has worked at all levels including federal, state, county and city courts.

Kelsie McDaniel

Kelsie McDaniel is a native Oregonian who lives in North Powder with her husband and their beautiful daughter. She serves as the Union County District Attorney, and is an active volunteer in the community with La Grande Rotary, LHS Mock Trials and Union County Safe Communities Coalition.

What can you bring to the position your opponent cannot?

ECKSTEIN:

Experience. I have a breadth of diverse experience — as a prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge — that provides meaningful context to my decision- making process. I have also had the unique opportunity to work at all levels of the law — city, county, state and federal. I understand the criminal justice system from all angles, which will allow me to be aggressive, consistent and fair in the application of my prosecutorial discretion.

Leadership. These experiences, combined with my personality and temperament, have allowed me to develop strong and effective leadership skills. I firmly believe that better decisions result from seeking and considering the input of all key players, with respectful and transparent communication. Better outcomes arise from more complete information and input. I believe that people and teams respond better to their leaders when they are treated with respect. Even if we disagree, each citizen, officer, and agency has a place at the table. When a decision has been made, I do not hesitate to stand strong in leading out on it. I am unafraid to take the heat that often comes from bold leadership.

McDANIEL:

I have a proven record of integrity, strong ethics and hard work. I am the only candidate who has worked as a District Attorney in Oregon, tried cases to a jury, or even appeared in Union County Circuit Court. I have built a reputation for cooperation with our community partners, which is evidenced by the fact that I am endorsed by currently serving police officers from all three local agencies.

They know they can count on me to help get problems solved and make Union County safe. I am on call to law enforcement 24/7 and have been called in the middle of the night countless times to respond to a scene or assist with a search warrant. I also know the administrative side of the position, which includes managing the budget, personnel and supervising additional programs such as the Medical Examiner.

This position is a great responsibility and should be held by a person with the utmost integrity, and experience prosecuting in Oregon: because that is what the job demands.

What challenge or mistake have you faced that has made you a better prosecuting attorney?

ECKSTEIN:

One of the primary challenges a prosecutor faces in upholding public safety is trying to weigh the interests of justice with the human realities each case presents. Over my many years practicing law, I have learned that the justice system works best when each player in the system knows his/her role in that system, fully performs the same, and avoids an attempt to usurp the functions of the others. For example, a zealous prosecutor who fully performs that function allows for a more robust function from the defense attorney. This, in turn, allows the judge and/or jury a more full view of the facts to reach what we hope is ultimately a just outcome.

McDANIEL:

When someone enters the criminal justice system as a victim, it is typically because something horrible has happened to them. The biggest challenge for me as a prosecutor is to accept that the criminal justice system does not always have all of the answers. We cannot undo the harm or pain that a victim has suffered in many cases. Taking the time to help that person navigate the process and truly give them the opportunity to be heard makes me a better prosecutor. Preparing a victim — especially a child — takes an incredible amount of effort, patience and skill to get ready to face their offender in court. As a mother, I feel even more protective of the children who find themselves in this position, and have strengthened my resolve to fight for them.

Describe your experience as a prosecutor

ECKSTEIN:

I served as an Assistant City Prosecutor (handling cases from initial screening through trial) for a city of 72,000 before being tapped by a federal judge to handle all of his criminal cases and to advise him on U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and habeas corpus cases. I then served as a criminal defense attorney working on major felonies involving complex constitutional issues. The unique opportunities I have had to experience the criminal justice system from each of these perspectives strengthens and informs my approach to criminal prosecution.

McDANIEL:

I have been a prosecutor in Eastern Oregon for the past 10 years. I was a Deputy District Attorney in Morrow County beginning in 2008 and a Deputy District Attorney in Union County beginning in 2010. I have served as the District Attorney for Union County since 2014. I am a career prosecutor, completely dedicated to seeking justice for the citizens of Union County. My caseload consists primarily of child abuse, sexual abuse and major crimes. I am a member of the Major Crimes Team, and the Multidisciplinary Teams on domestic violence, child abuse and elder abuse. I am the chair of the Sexual Assault Response Team and serve on the Treatment Court Steering Committee. I have been trained to excel in courtroom advocacy and I represent Union County with skill, honor and integrity.

What programs/policies would you implement to reduce crime and increase public safety?

ECKSTEIN:

My primary emphasis as District Attorney would be to aggressively and consistently prosecute crimes across the board. Full application of the law even (or especially) when crimes are small both protects the public, and sends the message to offenders that we will not tolerate victimization in our community. Our local law enforcement in Union County provides exceptional and professional protection of the public, and I take seriously the District Attorney’s duty to carry that work on through trial or other resolution. The citizens of Union County deserve someone fighting for them all throughout the process, working hand-in-hand with law enforcement. Part of this solution lies in tackling the complicated issue of our far-outdated jail, which will require bringing all the players to the table to get creative in working toward a solution.

I am also committed to an open process of communication, transparency, and accountability. I intend to create a position within the office to specifically act as a community liason, communicating with law enforcement, the media, and members of the public as the District Attorney’s office carries out its representation of the citizens in the criminal justice system. I will also actively communicate with the citizens, both directly and through the press to remain transparent and accountable.

McDANIEL:

My highest priority as the DA is protecting children. We aggressively seek to hold offenders accountable when they take advantage of our most vulnerable citizens. We especially devote our resources to being tough on repeat offenders.

This is evidenced by the fact that since I was elected, the number of offenders we have sent to prison has increased by 15 percent. Additionally, the number of offenders we have sent to prison for property and drug offenses has increased by 30 percent. We are taking these people off the streets and protecting victims. But we are also expanding the services of the District Attorney’s Office to better address issues of public safety. I have started a Mental Health Court Steering Committee to better address those in our community suffering from mental illness who continually expend the resources of our local police and hospital. We hope to launch this program by the end of the year. We are also partnering with the Union County Chamber of Commerce to launch a Restitution Pilot Program to expedite and increase the payments that victims are owed as a result of a crime. In addition to being a parent, this position is the greatest honor of my life. I am honored to serve and ask for your vote for re-election.

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