District Attorney Ron Moore speaking to the Council of Independent Business Owners on March 14. Photo by Alicia Funderburk.
The race for Buncombe County District Attorney is heating up, with incumbent Ron Moore touting his accomplishments to a local business group (and taking to Twitter), while challenger Todd Williams accumulating endorsements from some local politicians and judges.
Moore, a Democrat, is running for a seventh term. Williams, a defense attorney, is running against him in the May 6 primary. Williams has criticized the longtime district attorney, asserting that his office has acquired a reputation for a lack of transparency. There is no Republican candidate for the position, so the primary will determine the outcome.
This morning, March 14, Moore spoke to the Council of Independent Business Owners. He touted his office’s major role in cracking down on drunk driving, setting up specialty courts to reduce the court caseload and coordinating the renovation and expansion of the courthouse complex to improve security.
Moore said he was particularly proud of a recent award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In his office’s pursuit of DWI offenders, he said, “We’ve saved lives by being relentless.”
Talking to Xpress afterwards, Moore defended his record as one of efficiency and improvement.
“When I first ran, the platform I ran on was that I would try cases, vigorously prosecute drug dealers and use the habitual felon law, all of which I have done,” he says. “I had a program of what I wanted to do if elected. My program wasn’t ‘This guy’s been here for too long or whatever.’ My program was: ‘This guy’s not running a very good office.’ I have continued to be innovative through the years. We are constantly looking for ways to be more efficient in the system, even [as] our caseload has grown exponentially with the population.”
Even now, Moore says, he’s pushing to improve resources for blood and crime-scene testing so that it can be done closer to Buncombe County and decrease the time it takes to try a case, especially sexual assault and homicide cases.
Moore contends that his refusal in 2012 to release an audit of the amount missing guns, drugs and money from the Asheville Police Department evidence room was what any District Attorney would have done. He added that as soon as former evidence room manager Lee Smith is sentenced, he will reveal the audit to the public.
I n 2012, a number of local media outlets, including Xpress, hit Moore’s office with an open records lawsuit for withholding the documents, and Williams has criticized his refusal to release the audit.
Asked about that controversy, Moore replied, “I have no control over how long the federal government takes to sentence him, but once that is done, I will release it.” He continued, “When there’s a pending case, I’m not supposed to release information about an investigation. … There’s nothing to hide. Once he’s sentenced, I will release it and I will answer questions about it. I don’t think anybody sitting in the District Attorney’s chair would release things like that.”
Moore said that his vision for his next term includes improved use of electronic records for both prosecutors and defense attorneys, and claims that he’s always been open with defense attorneys.
“We’ve had an open file policy [for attorneys] since the first day I took office: come grab our files and copy them,” but he hopes that soon electronic records will show when attorneys for each side received documents and evidence.
“We’ve always been innovative and sought out new programs,” he said. “It’s exciting to try and make the system work even better.”
Williams, meanwhile, has gathered several notable endorsements in the weeks since announcing he’d challenge Moore. Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger, former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Harry Martin, retired Chief District Court Judge Earl Fowler and Asheville City Council member Gordon Smith have all publicly backed Williams.
Early voting for primary elections begins April 24 in eight locations throughout Buncombe County. The primary is scheduled for Tuesday, May 6.