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Archive for Wednesday, July 24, 1996

FORUM SPARKS REMARKS BETWEEN DA CANDIDATES

July 24, 1996

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Douglas County Democratic candidates for district attorney traded barbs Tuesday night.

Jim Rumsey said he wanted to gain input from the community through a forum on juvenile crime.

Dan Owen said the event was simply a political stunt.

Regardless of how Tuesday night's event were interpreted, one thing was certain, both Owen and Rumsey -- Democratic candidates for Douglas County district attorney -- wasted no time afterwards trading political jabs.

Rumsey sponsored the forum on juvenile crime at the Lawrence Public Library. About 25 people, some of whom wore stickers supporting Rumsey, attended the event.

"I don't want this to be a typical political campaign function," Rumsey told the group. "I want to hear what the community has to say about this issue."

Indeed, during the hourlong forum, members of the audience talked about the causes of gangs and juvenile crime in the city, and possible solutions.

Rumsey occasionally asked participants what they thought could be done to improve law enforcement and prosecutors' efforts.

Owen, meanwhile, arrived near the end of the forum and waited outside the library conference room.

Rumsey said afterward that Owen was welcome to join the discussion, but Owen said that a member of Rumsey's campaign made it clear to him that he was not welcome.

"This was clearly a political stunt," Owen said. "It's a self-serving campaign event.

"I didn't grandstand," Rumsey said. "Most of the dialogue was among the citizens."

Owen, Rumsey said, "was perfectly welcome to join the discussion among the citizens but he chose to hide out there."

"A member of Rumsey's campaign staff ... said I was sponging off of all their hard work," Owen said. "He made it very clear that I was not welcome."

Some participants wondered aloud why more people weren't at the event. One woman said she had been told of it only two hours before.

Library director Bruce Flanders said nothing in the library's meeting room use policy prohibits functions sponsored by political candidates.

The policy only specifically prohibits use of the room for commercial purposes.

Rumsey and Owen will square off at a candidates forum Monday at city hall.

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