Walworth County DA to be decided in GOP primary
If you want a say in picking the next district attorney in Walworth County, don't wait until the Nov. 6 general election.
The Republican primary Tuesday will decide who will succeed Phil Koss, who now is a Walworth County judge. There are no Democrats in the race; therefore either Steve Harvey or Dan Necci, both Republican candidates, will be the next DA.
A DA race is a change in Walworth County. Koss has never run opposed since he was elected in 1990.
In the Tuesday primary, voters have a choice between two Republicans who are not bashful about promoting themselves and questioning their opponent's qualifications.
The major issue has been experience. Harvey says Necci has little, if any. Necci says he has the kind of experience it takes to run an efficient district attorney's office.
Necci has the endorsement of the Republican Party of Walworth County. He says that's an indication of his support in a county that often does not see Democrats run for office.
"It's true I have little criminal jury trial experience, but that's not the issue that should drive this election," Necci said. "I didn't set out to be the next district attorney when I established my law practice.
"I was approached by the bar, circuit court judges and law enforcement officials who asked me to run for this office," he said. "I sought advice from others, and after listening to that advice, I moved forward with my campaign with the confidence that I had the support of the Walworth County legal community."
Necci puts his qualifications and support against what he says are his opponent's weaknesses—an 0-9 record in criminal jury trials and an ethics question raised by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
"My opponent has not been successful in terms of criminal jury trials, and his ethics were questioned by the second-highest court in our state," Necci said. "The fact is neither of us have experience as prosecutors. It comes down to a matter of trust, and I'm confident the voters of Walworth County will place their trust in me."
Harvey counters that Necci downplays the experience issue.
"I have 19 years experience as an attorney including 15 years as a prosecutor at the municipal level where I have won hundreds of cases as a prosecutor," Harvey said. "My opponent graduated from law school seven years ago and has never tried a criminal case before a jury. That's a lack of experience directly related to qualifications to be the next district attorney in Walworth County.
"Former DA Phil Koss was an active prosecutor," Harvey said. "He took a fair share of the load, including routine calendar calls in addition to jury trials and high profile cases. We need someone with the experience to step into that role for a seamless transition, and I'm the only candidate who can do that."
Harvey admits to a poor decision during one of his criminal jury trials. He said he violated the rule against acting as an advocate at a trial in which he was a necessary witness.
"It was a mistake I made," Harvey said. "I have learned from that mistake, but this was not an ethics issue. The Supreme Court did not issued a reprimand. The issue was simply the opinion of three judges, and I agree with their opinion.
"What's important is that I was learning by trying a criminal case," Harvey said. "Justice was served in that case, and I have moved forward by learning from the experience."
Necci points to what he calls the culture and social mores of the Walworth County community and the role they play in electing public officials.
"I live in this community, and I take an active role in this community," he said. "The culture of this community is what motivates me. I have kids in this community, and it's for their protection and the protection of all the citizens of Walworth County that I have agreed to run for office."
Harvey, who lives in Jefferson County and says he'd move into Walworth County if elected, said he's running for office to maintain the high level of performance established by Koss.
"I've lived and practiced law in Walworth County for the past 19 years, and the one thing we all share is a culture of respect for the law and the ability to protect our citizens with aggressive prosecution," Harvey said. "That's been the culture of this county, and that will continue to be the case when I'm elected Aug. 14."
Address: 115 Carriage Way, No. 4, Palmyra.
Job: Lawyer, partner at Wassel, Harvey & Schuk, Delavan.
Education: Bachelor's degree from Notre Dame; law degree from Marquette, 1993.
Community service: Trial judge for Wisconsin high school mock trial tournament.
Address: 924 Center St., Delavan
Job: Lawyer, The Law Offices of Daniel A. Necci, Elkhorn
Education: Bachelor's degree from UW-Eau Claire, law degree from Marquette in 2005.
Community service: Lakeshore Library Board, coach for Delavan Red Devils youth football program, volunteer for Be Fit program.