Forum in Oklahoma DA's race showcases candidates' differences

GROVE, Okla. – Two candidates squared off on Friday for the District 13 District Attorney’s Office race.

Kenny Wright, of Grove and Doug Pewitt, of Monkey Island, debate for an hour and a half during the Delaware County Republican Party forum.  The primary election is set for June 28. The last day to request an absentee ballot is June 13.

District 13 covers Ottawa and Delaware counties.

Both men announced they were Republicans, pro-life, and strongly supported the Second Amendment each saying they owned several guns.

But that’s where the similarities ended.

Wright is the incumbent and stressed his experience as the main reason voters should reelect him to a third term.

“I love fighting for victims, truth, and justice,” Wright said during the debate.

Since Wright took office in 2015, he has filed 19,922 cases, which includes 7,354 felony cases, he said at the conclusion of the debate.  

Approximately 38.86% of all felony cases result in an average of 10.09 years of imprisonment, he said.

Wright also spoke of his experience in county government and his administrative experience.

“Our office is in good financial shape,” Wright said.

Wright questioned his opponent’s financial practices saying he had state and federal tax liens.

Pewitt said some law enforcement officers approached him about the cases they work on being declined by the district attorney’s office and no charges filed.

Wright said most reports were sent back to the investigating officer for additional follow-up work before he could file charges.

A change is needed in order to make the counties safer, Pewitt said.

Pewitt addressed the “McGirt” decision and how it’s being handled under Wright’s leadership.

The 2020 Supreme Court ruling known as “McGirt” upheld the jurisdictions of Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Quapaw, and Seminole nations reservations and prosecutors lack the authority to pursue criminal cases against American Indian defendants.

 The Quapaw Nation’s reservation was included in 2022.

“It has been a huge challenge,” Wright said of the “McGirt” decision.

“I have experience in tribal court,” Pewitt said.  “We have to work together,” referring to the American Indian tribes.

“The Quapaw and Wyandotte (tribes) do not have a relationship with Wright’s administration,” Pewitt said.  “Cases need to be evaluated immediately and transferred to the tribal courts.”

Wright disagreed saying his office does have a good relationship with the Cherokee Nation Tribe and Quapaw Nation Tribe.

The Wyandotte Tribe’s tribal reservation was not included in the McGirt decision.

Pewitt slammed Wright and accused him of sidestepping questions about the federal case involving former prosecutor, Daniel Giraldi.

“Nothing was done when prior complaints were made against Giraldi,” Pewitt said to Wright.

Giraldi is accused of receiving “sexual favors in exchange for special treatment of certain defendants and their cases,” according to a criminal complaint. Additionally, he is accused of coercing a woman to travel in exchange for money and controlled substances, the complaint states.

Wright said Giraldi was fired after he learned of Giraldi’s alleged crimes.

Wright said the U.S. Attorney’s office asked a number of Giraldi’s cases be pulled.

‘All appear to have been handled appropriately,” Wright said.

Pewitt said if elected his policy will be to have prosecutors review cases which would allow him to see if there is anything outside the norm.

“What charges are being filed, what charges are being declined,” Pewitt said of his proposed system.

When questioned about a 2018 state audit that found the district attorney’s office lacked a strong checks and balances system, Wright explained the steps he took to correct the violations.

“Due to a lack of personnel was the problem,” Wright said.  “Now we have a minimum of two people involved in the process.  We have done everything we can do to comply with the 2018 audit.”

The debate can be viewed on the Delaware County Republican Party’s Facebook page.

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