|By G. Michael Dobbs|
My colleague Ray Hershel of ABC40 and FOX6 the dean of Western Massachusetts television news and I had the privilege and pleasure of asking two sets of candidates questions on Tuesday night at debates presented by the West of the River Chamber of Commerce in West Springfield.
Of course you couldn't know that if you read The Republican story as our names and roles were omitted. And because the reporter had to leave before the debate between Sen. Stephen Buoniconti and Mark Mastroianni ended, readers didn't get full coverage.
Hey, you can't blame the reporter for that, as deadlines are deadlines. And certainly, The Republican management sure wouldn't want my name in their 'paper.'
Luckily for our readers, Katelyn Gendron covered both debates entirely.
I don't wish to appear snarky here, but I thought indulging in a little "inside baseball" was appropriate. This race is important and how it is covered is important as well.
Speaking for myself, the experience as a panelist can be both illuminating and frustrating for a reporter. It's great to pin candidates down and ask them question, but without the ability to ask a follow-up question, sometimes you don't get the answers you'd like.
For instance, for many voters, the experience of both men is an important part of the race. Buoniconti said that, while he was "very comfortable" with his courtroom experience as an assistant district attorney, this race was not about "who is the best trial attorney."
So I asked him to specifically describe what kind of cases he prosecuted during his five years as an assistant district attorney and whether or not he has ever prosecuted a murder trial. It's my belief a district attorney needs that kind of experience.
Buoniconti said he had worked on a number of serious cases, but he wouldn't say whether or not he had ever prosecuted a murder. Since there was no follow-up available, I couldn't pursue it.
Later on in the debate, when Mastroianni asked about having the experience to train assistant district attorneys, Buoniconti claimed, "whether [trying a case] in district court or superior court, it's the same thing."
Anyone watching the debate certainly could see a difference in the two men's philosophy toward the duties and scope of the office. Buoniconti said as district attorney, "my first job is administration." He added that seven out of 10 current district attorneys in the state don't prosecute cases. Buoniconti said he sees the job "as much bigger" and he would be spending more time in the community and would do things such as attend Chamber of Commerce events.
Mastroianni's statements indicated that fighting crime through the core functions of the office prevention and prosecution were his agenda.
Voters certainly have a choice in this race between two candidates with different skill sets and different views of the office they want.
Buoniconti attacked Mastroianni for receiving endorsements from 40 defense attorneys a statement The Republican repeated despite it being wrong because the district attorney could not be seen with defense attorneys because of the adversarial relationships between the two types of attorneys.
Mastroianni corrected the statement later in the debate by noting those endorsements came from former prosecutors, former U.S. Attorneys, local police officers and a state trooper.
Since I covered that story and saw the list of people, I know Mastroianni was accurate.
Considering the amount of interaction that prosecutors and defense attorneys have professionally, I thought mutual respect between colleagues was natural and expected.
Hey, what do I know?
This is stacking up to be one of the most vital races this election cycle. Pay attention to it.This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments online to firstname.lastname@example.org or to 280 North Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028.
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