EDITORIAL: The race for Clark County district attorney

The Clark County district attorney race is somewhat of an anomaly this year. Because no Republican filed for office, the task falls to registered Democratic voters to decide the race in the June 12 primary.

Incumbent Steve Wolfson, first appointed in 2012 and elected to a full term two years later, drew a last-minute opponent when attorney Robert Langford decided to enter the race just before the March 16 filing deadline.

The well-respected Mr. Langford has served as defense counsel in a number of high-profile Las Vegas cases in recent years. He also did a seven-year stint in the district attorney’s office in the 1990s.

Mr. Langford is a proponent of major criminal justice reform and favors eliminating the cash-bail system because of its impact on minorities and the “working poor.” He also seeks to attack jail overcrowding by putting fewer nonviolent offenders behind bars.

Mr. Langford’s campaign website touts a connection to the “Trump resistance” — “It’s a Democratic primary,” he explained. He said he would be willing to frustrate federal immigration officials because he doesn’t want to intimidate undocumented workers into “not cooperating with law enforcement.”

Overall, Mr. Langford describes his approach as being “smart on crime” by better managing resources.

Mr. Wolfson, meanwhile, touts a number of accomplishments in his tenure, including the creation of Nevada’s first unit devoted to reviewing cases involving potentially wrongful convictions. He also cites efforts to alleviate jail overcrowding by moving to get the accused through the system more quickly, and he says he supports bail reform.

“Nobody should be in jail for $1,000 bail,” the district attorney said.

Mr. Wolfson notes that his office has greatly improved its child support collection efforts since he took over, and he says it would be a “good idea” to require a criminal conviction before pressing forfeiture cases. He vows to follow the law when it comes to dealing with immigration authorities and argues that his experience “managing budgets and managing people” sets him apart from his opponent.

Mr. Wolfson has been a disappointment on transparency issues — a March Review-Journal story raised questions of special treatment when it revealed that he agreed not to prosecute a close associate who had illegally dipped into his campaign coffers. A priority of his second full term, were he to win re-election, should be a greater emphasis on openness and accountability.

On a macro level, however, Mr. Wolfson has performed admirably in a thankless job while being a tireless advocate for crime victims.

This race features two quality candidates. The affable Mr. Langford would likely acquit himself well as district attorney. He has raised some important issues regarding reform. But we see no compelling reason to remove Mr. Wolfson.

The Review-Journal recommends a vote for Steve Wolfson in the district attorney race.

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