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Attorney general josh stein is being challenged by republican nominee and prosecuting attorney and district district attorney from forsyth county. Jim oneill who joins us now mr oneal for stopping by for a conversation. Well thank you so much for having me.
I appreciate the opportunity republican voters in this state have seen your name on ballots before there are thousands of new voters and residents in north carolina. The past four years tell us about yourself what brings you into the attorney general race well ive been a prosecutor for more than 20 years. Pushing up 25 years now and the attorney general is supposed to be the top prosecutor in the state uh.
I am. The only prosecutor actually in the race. My opponent has never actually prosecuted a case.
While ive been prosecuting and keeping people safe for more than 20 years. What is the difference in an attorney. Say as attorney general.
Why do you envision that our state needs. A prosecutor in that role as opposed to another type of attorney. Well the office.
Unfortunately has become very political uh especially under the current ag instead of doing the job of the people and being sure that the things that they voted for and they supported are the things that are carried out by that office by way of an example we talk about voter id. It was something that north carolinians overwhelmingly passed a couple of years ago. And when it ran into a roadblock in the federal courts.
And was held to be unconstitutional. It was the job of the attorney general to appeal that case to a higher court to try and get a favorable ruling at least on behalf of the citizens of north carolina. Who want that and unfortunately.
The current attorney general refused to do that lets talk about philosophy. How do you see the attorney generals role in context of the council of state and in the context of how the attorney general serves. Our state well the attorney general again is is the top prosecutor in the state.
So they they handle not only criminal issues. But they handle civil issues as well of course. I have a wealth of experience as far as the criminal aspect is concerned and im prepared to come in there and start doing the will of the people and to be sure that we have somebody in that office that cares about victims and understands victims and has stood with victims in court like i have over the years.
What kind of mindset does it take to go into a courtroom as a prosecutor to seek justice on behalf of society and on and on behalf of plaintiffs. Well. Its a wonderful feeling especially giving a voice to people that oftentimes especially the murdered victims.
They have no voice and theyre crying out from the grave and theyre asking for for justice and to pursue that justice on behalf of people that that cant speak for themselves. And dont have a voice. Any longer theres nothing more powerful in the law.
The attorney general has a record from the previous three and a half years three and three quarter years in office you have a record back in forsyth county. As that district attorney tell us a bit about your biggest successes from the winston salem area in your public service up. There.
Well people know me as a hard. Charging prosecutor and somebody that stands for the rule of law uh the rioting and looting that weve seen in some of our big cities and the burning down. We simply did not tolerate that in winston salem.
Although. We had some some protesters too i came out early on and told. The community.
We would accept and stand by the peaceful protesters. But we would not accept the rioters and the looters and people destroying our city uh and unfortunately when you look at a place like raleigh and our attorney general is here in town. And he spoke did not speak up at all to see to it that those rioters and looters would not destroy the city which was a real letdown for people um.
But as far as what ive done in in winston. Salem. And also in addition to being a hard.
Charging prosecutor. I also temper my justice with mercy.
I came up with a program about three or four years ago. That was designed to help people get their drivers license back i partnered with the black ministers conference in town and we said go to your congregation and find out who needs help getting their license restored. Because obviously if you dont have a drivers license.
Its hard to get around to get jobs finish your education. Whatever the case may be well. We had hundreds of people show up looking for help and we turned it into a program.
A licensed restoration program. And it has had tremendous success in our community and its something that is now copied across the state. So we feel really good about that um as another way that we have reached out and done some good things in our community involves a program that i started its called the data program.
Which stands for district attorneys treatment alternatives lost in this covid19 has been the conversation about the epidemic of heroin and opioids and alcohol abuse. Thats killing young lives day after day. What we did in winston salem.
Was i partnered with a pharmaceutical company called alchemiers alkamers produces a drug called vivitrol vivitrol acts as a blocker so if you take heroin or opioids and you receive this injection. You can no longer get high. So once i was able to get the pharmaceutical company on board.
I went to our county commissioners. And said listen if you will give me 250 000. I can put a program together that will bring our jail population down.
It will keep our streets safer. It will reduce crime and will help these people get on their feet. Well.
Im proud to tell you that we have completed our first graduation. I have kids in that program that are back in college. I have every single person in that program is testing clean every single person in that program has a job every single person that program has had zero contacts with law enforcement.
This is a tremendous program that we started here in in winston salem. Were seeing tremendous effects in our own community and we are so looking forward to the opportunity when i become the attorney general of spreading this good news and these good ideas across the state that will benefit all north carolinians. But clearly if youre elected attorney general youll work at a higher societal level.
Youll take on big tent issues. Just like the opioid epidemic you would inherit a problem in north carolina. But youre also a prosecutor and youre proud on your tough on crime positions.
How do you know when to be tough on that issue. Even if youre in the attorney generals office. When do you crack down on that industry or on that activity.
And when do you show empathy. How do you balance that again an excellent question and and the way you you come about those decisions is having experience and and after spending more than 20 years in the courtroom. I understand what are the little things the things that that people need help on and we can get people on the on the heading on the straight and narrow and heading down the proper path and we also have people that are violent that are incorrigible recidivists that need to be put away and taken off the streets.
We had a program that i started back in winston salem. Another program. We started we we we went after those individuals that were committing violent crime and we partnered with our friends in the us.
Attorneys office to make a decision as to when we have individuals committing violent crime. Wheres the best place to prosecute them either in state court or in federal court. I believe firmly that theres only a small percentage of the population thats driving violent crime and if you focus on that small percentage that are driving the violent crime arrest them prosecute them properly pull them out of society and put them in jail.
You have a safer community as a result of these programs. That weve put in place in winston. Salem.
Wallethub. Recently ranked winston salem. As the safest city in all of north carolina.
The number one safest city in all of north carolina and a lot of it of course goes to these programs. Weve instituted and the partnerships that weve made with our friends in fo. .
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