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Attorney General candidate runs on experience

Herington attorney was involved in early DNA, death penalty cases

Staff writer

Ralph De Zago, of Herington, makes a distinction between two types of elected offices: one depends more on political philosophy, while the other demands specific skills.

Representatives, senators, and governors are more philosophical officials, he said Monday. Attorneys general, secretaries of state, and registers of deeds should be able to accomplish the specific tasks of their offices.

That is why his experience prosecuting and defending criminal cases is crucial to his candidacy for Kansas attorney general, he said.

De Zago identified four types of experience needed to be an effective attorney general. The first is criminal law experience. He was Chief Public Defender in the Eighth Judicial District for 16 years. He currently is City Prosecutor for Junction City, where he has served since 2007.

He served as counsel in the first DNA fingerprinting case in Kansas and in the first and third death penalty cases after Kansas re-instituted the death penalty. He said he does not oppose the death penalty under proper circumstances.

The second type of necessary experience, De Zago said, is in the attorney general’s office. He worked more than three years writing attorney general’s opinions and defending Kansas Department of Corrections against inmates’ lawsuits.

The ability to run a large office that is part of an even larger agency is another kind of needed experience, he said. De Zago served in the Army from 1971 to 1975, commanding soldiers and taking orders from higher-ups.

The final kind of experience necessary to be an effective attorney general is running an office of attorneys, he said. There are nuances to the legal profession that someone outside the profession wouldn’t understand, he said.

The attorney general’s job, as it relates to counties, is to support the county attorney, but only if asked by the county attorney or the governor, De Zago said.

“He’s kind of like a vampire,” he said. “He can’t come in unless he is invited.”

De Zago thinks some attorneys general have overstepped their duties in the past. He said it is important for the attorney general to enforce laws, including those the attorney general disagrees with.

De Zago — a Republican — said he supports local control over county issues.

He said he is upset that there are professional politicians whose job is running for office. He said he opposes the system that rewards candidates for fundraising rather than the ability to do the job.

“It’s an insult to the public,” he said.

De Zago, who turns 61 Sunday, was born in New York City. He has lived in Herington 28 years. His campaign Web site is www.ralphdezago.com

Last modified Dec. 30, 2009

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