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Candidates for SLO County district attorney tackle controversial topics

Posted at 10:34 AM, May 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-15 13:34:28-04

San Luis Obispo County voters will soon decide who will serve as the chief prosecutor for the next four years.

Incumbent Dan Dow has been in office since 2014.

“I’m very, very proud of the hard work that our office has put in over the past few years. The great successes like our cyber forensics lab, the continued great work for veterans through our veterans’ treatment court and the very, very tough verdicts that we’ve had for violent crimes such as human trafficking of children,” Dow told KSBY. “There’s a lot more work to be done and I’m anxious to do it for the people of San Luis Obispo County.”

Judge Mike Cummins hopes to unseat Dow on June 5.

“I’ve been 81 felony jury trials, 5 murder convictions, a judge for 13 years in primarily criminal assignments. I’ve been a lawyer for almost 35 years,” Cummins said. “Dan Dow has been a lawyer for 12 [years].”

Cummins grew up in San Luis Obispo County and practiced law locally for five years before moving to Stanislaus County where he served as a deputy district attorney and judge.

He moved back to San Luis Obispo 10 years ago. About a year ago, Cummins legally changed his name to “Judge Mike Cummins” after another run for office.

“I was considering running for a state office and I realized that I couldn’t use ‘Retired Judge’ because I’d done something in the interim. That’s the rule and a lot of people think that’s kind of a silly rule,” he said. “It seemed to me that it was denying me a legitimate opportunity to use something on the ballot that I otherwise should have been entitled to so I changed my name.”

Cummins is also a musician and performs with his band, Judge Mike & The Lawless.

“I was a California Superior Court judge longer than Dan Dow has been a lawyer. I’m currently a member of the California Judges Association. So did I change my name, at least in part, out of political considerations? Oh, absolutely. Is it dishonest? Is it misleading? Absolutely not.”

Army veteran Dan Dow says he’s proud of the work his office has done through the Victim Witness Center.

“Last year, we served 11,000 victims in our county and processed over 14,000 criminal cases,” Dow said. “The people of San Luis Obispo County have come to very much respect and appreciate the hard work of the staff in my office.”

A post shared by Dan Dow (@ddowesq) on May 2, 2018 at 8:37pm PDT

Dow says this election is much different than his 2014 run for D.A. against Tim Covello

“This race differs primarily because in that I’m doing the job as district attorney. I’m not coming out of retirement like my opponent but I’m working hard to, first and foremost, to keep the community safe and hold offenders accountable while protecting the rights of crime victims,” Dow said. “Campaigning comes second and because of that, I’m putting in a lot of hours.”

Dow already has plans if he’s re-elected.

“Top priority right now is to continue being very tough on the violent offenders, the serious offenders and sex offenders, while being compassionate for first-time offenders through our misdemeanor diversion program,” Dow said.

Dow wants to set up a homeless court this year to get transients out of the criminal court system.

Cummins agrees homelessness is a top priority. He’s also focused on veterans’ issues and mental health.

KSBY Investigates: The 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness: Where are we now?

Cummins says he wants to take what he calls a “creative approach” to the role of district attorney.

“I want to go down and see what’s going on in court. I want to be involved in the courthouse, in the cases,” Cummins told KSBY.

The jail death of mentally-ill inmate Andrew Holland has become a central focus of the D.A. race.

Cummins criticizes Dow for not investigating the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office’s role in Holland’s death.

“It would be completely inappropriate for this office to interfere with an FBI investigation while that’s going on,” Dow said in response to Cummins’s comments. “Secondly, my opponent says that he promises to investigate yet he’s taken $25,000 from the interested family, the Holland family. That alone, calls into question whether or not he could have an objective, fair and unbiased investigation.”

Cummins fired back.

“Absolutely it could be done fairly and objectively, and could and should be done fairly and objectively,” he said. “The reason that Dan Dow doesn’t want to investigate, didn’t want to investigate is because he doesn’t want to step on the sheriff’s toes. He views the sheriff as a very, very strong political ally.”

The race for district attorney will be decided in the June 5 primary because there are only two candidates.