DA race heats up: Dyer endorses Smittcamp, Egan answers back

The Fresno BeeApril 25, 2014 

The Fresno County district attorney's race focused on law-enforcement endorsements Friday with back-to-back news conferences by the candidates.

It started with a 2 p.m. announcement from Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer at Courthouse Park that he is endorsing challenger Lisa Sondergaard Smittcamp.

An hour later and a few blocks away, District Attorney Elizabeth Egan reminded voters she has the endorsement of Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.

Dyer came out strong for Smittcamp. He said while it would have been easier to stand on the sideline and not endorse a candidate, had he done that, "I don't think I could have lived with myself."

Out of a sense of responsibility to keep the community safe, Dyer said he had to "step up and do the right thing, and that's endorsing Lisa Smittcamp."

Dyer said the overwhelming majority of his Fresno police officers support Smittcamp.

"Lisa has the compassion, the commitment, the experience and the creativity to lead the district attorney's office in these difficult and challenging times," Dyer said. "Lisa is driven out of a sense of responsibility for victims. That's why she had more than a 90% conviction rate when she served as a prosecutor."

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Dyer said his intent at the news conference wasn't to address Egan's performance, but to "tout the talents of Lisa."

Smittcamp came ready to do the same. After sharing a list of endorsements, including six central San Joaquin Valley police officer associations and a former Fresno County district attorney, Smittcamp sealed the list with this: "Furthermore, I am endorsed by Mrs. Egan's own employees -- the (Fresno County) District Attorneys Investigators Association."

She added she has the endorsement of the Fresno Sheriff's Sergeants Association.

Smittcamp told the crowd she heard Egan's campaign is marketing itself as "law enforcement's choice."

Pointing to a crowd full of law enforcement supporters behind her, she declared, "If that isn't a message to the public that Lisa Sondergaard Smittcamp is law enforcement's choice, then I don't know what is."

An hour later, Egan challenged that statement from her former employee in a news conference at the Fresno Deputy Sheriffs Association office. Mims took center stage.

She started with some of Egan's endorsements -- the deputy sheriffs association, "30,000 law enforcement officers statewide," and added that Egan has an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association.

Mims said Smittcamp didn't ask her for an endorsement.

"I had committed already to Elizabeth Egan and frankly, at that time, it didn't matter who ran because Elizabeth has done a great job," Mims said. "The proof is our reduction in crime rates throughout the city of Fresno and the county of Fresno. So why not keep that team in place when it's working?"

In response to recent criticism by Smittcamp of the management style of Egan's chief assistant district attorney, Kelly Keenan, Egan said: "I've got a great track record and so does the office."

But, Egan added, "not one person in the office, including myself, can handle 50,000 cases a year, so that falls on the 104 deputy DAs and they are doing an excellent job. It's proven by the work we're doing and the conviction rate."

Mike Reynolds, a Fresno resident and author of California's "three strikes" law, was also at the conference and echoed many of the sentiments by Mims and Egan.

"This is a team that you want to stick with because it's delivering results," Reynolds said. "Our streets are safer ... and they've done it with less, smaller, littler, tinier budgets than they've ever seen before."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, cgeorge@fresnobee.com or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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