Marshawn Wolley

Marshawn Wolley

Who will be the best partner for our progress? But first, what is going on with the prosecutor’s race?

Soon Marion County Democratic Party precinct committee people will decide who will fill the remainder of former Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry’s term.

Ryan Mears who has tried over 100 cases in the prosecutor’s office and was a chief deputy until assuming the role of acting Marion County Prosecutor is running. He’s a Democrat but isn’t really as connected to the party.

Tim Moriarty, a talented political mind and lawyer is a longtime Democratic Party volunteer. He hasn’t tried a criminal case yet, but he is running as well.

Both candidates seem to be criminal justice reform oriented.

Mears was the lead on many of Curry’s reforms including a “second chance” fair that helped people set up payment plans for traffic tickets, assisted with expungements, and other legal issues for people who were engaged with the criminal justice system.

Moriarty has ably led Mayor Joe Hogsett’s criminal justice reform efforts, which have focused on addressing mental health issues and the construction of a new criminal justice complex.

Both men are good at what they do — and better yet — Black incarceration rates are down in Marion County.

Moriarty is a capable administrator — but if he wins this race, it will tell us a lot about what Democratic policymakers think the role of the county’s top prosecutor should be in our public safety system — a manager versus a leader.

Democrats have floated the idea that the Marion County prosecutor is an administrative role and so Moriarty’s work in the Hogsett administration should qualify him for the position.

It is true that the elected prosecutor generally doesn’t try cases.

But the reality is that the county’s top prosecutor isn’t just a manager, they are a law enforcement leader. The top prosecutor in the county must instill confidence in the criminal justice system.

The Marion County prosecutor, due to the jurisdiction, handles political corruption at the Statehouse — that’s law enforcement leadership.

One of Curry’s first acts as the county’s top prosecutor was about law enforcement leadership when he tried former officer David Bisard for drunk driving. Pursuing that case and increased white collar prosecutions have been about improving the community’s confidence in the criminal justice system.

Will deputy prosecutors have confidence in the leadership of someone that has never worked in the office?

Should the county’s top prosecutor learn about prosecuting cases on the job after a mass shooting downtown?

Do Democrats really want to be branded as merely wanting to manage versus lead on public safety?

But the other troubling issue is why are top elected officials meddling in this race?

Of course, elected officials can do what they want, but the way this is happening is actually really troubling and pretty disrespectful in some ways.

Remember when Hogsett rightly opted to stay out of the City-County Council’s coup problem last year because it is a separate branch of government?

When previous Democrats in other offices have resigned did we see this flurry of endorsements from other politicians?

The engagement by some of the county’s top politicians in this race is insider politics at its worst.

Black folks know about being qualified but losing out on a job because someone else had connections. 

But it doesn’t stop there.

By now everyone knows Mayor Hogsett’s campaign is struggling to respond to the issue of racial disparities and the prospect of Black agendas for the city.

It is not fair to blame Mayor Hogsett for racial disparities that have developed over years, but he most certainly should be held accountable for his response, or the lack thereof in some instances, to efforts to move forward on addressing these problems.

Hogsett has been asked by Black elected officials, civic leaders and pastors about his views on what the administration has done specifically for the Black community. Thus far, there hasn’t been a response. He has some wins, why not state them?

Both mayoral candidates were asked to participate in a debate that would focus on Black concerns back in July. The Merritt campaign agreed to debate. The Hogsett campaign has yet to decide on the multiple requests for a debate that was supposed to happen on Oct. 3.

This municipal election needed a debate on Black voter’s concerns.

Merritt has opted to listen to Black pastors and civic leaders to work on developing a plan to address racial disparities.

Hogsett has the same information Merritt received from Black pastors and civic leaders and right now there doesn’t appear to be any action in this area.

Is the Hogsett campaign taking the Black vote for granted? Is Merritt to be trusted?

But there is more.

For years the Marion County GOP has ignored the Black community — and even most recently under Merritt’s leadership as the GOP County Chairman. Merritt is actively courting the Black vote, and that should be commended, but there is clearly a trust deficit for him within our community. Further, how will Merritt’s base react to his engagement with the Black community and our issues?

Oddly, Merritt may actually alienate himself from his own base at the moment Hogsett seems to be taking the Black vote for granted. 

At the end of the day, we have no permanent friends, or permanent enemies. We only have permanent interests. As we get closer to November, I’ll be curious to see who steps up to be the best partner for our progress.

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