Kevin L. Hoover
HUMBOLDT – The field of candidates for Humboldt County District Attorney swelled to four over the weekend with back-to-back announcements by incumbent DA Paul Gallegos and former Deputy DA, now private attorney Allison Jackson.
The Gallegos event was held Friday at the former 321 Coffee shop in Old Town Eureka, now called “321 Gallegos.”
Supporters in attendance included many Gallegos backers from previous campaigns, employees of the DA’s Office and Humboldt County Democratic Party officials. A few were given time to say nice things about their candidate.
Campaign Manager Natalynne DeLapp introduced DA Investigator Wayne Cox, who praised Gallegos as an effective and dedicated crimefighter with a “can-do” attitude who is “dedicated to the fair pursuit of justice.” He said Gallegos had innovated and modernized law enforcement, resulting in numerous successful prosecutions.
“He is firmly established and widely respected by his colleagues, and has successfully led the DA’s Office through difficult and tumultuous times,” Cox said.
DeLapp read a statement by Trinity County District Attorney Michael Harper, who said Gallegos is “a good man and a good district attorney” who is “not only a leader in Humboldt County, but all of the North Coast.” She said DAs in Butte, Yuba and Del Norte counties have all endorsed Gallegos.
Next was former Assemblymember Patty Berg. She said “Paul has proven himself to be effective, courageous and independent.”
Continued Berg, “He has shaped the District Attorney’s Office to reflect the values of the people that he serves and has built a 21st Century District Attorney’s Office of which we can all be proud.”
She said Gallegos had grown in the job, keeps his word, and stands up for all citizens equally.
“Isn’t that what we want from our chief law enforcement officer?” Berg asked. She said Gallegos “leads by example” and “is on our side, defending us and protecting us.”
She then introduced her “dear friend, Paul Gallegos.”
Looking fit and dapper in a dark suit and pale blue tie, Gallegos began by thanking his family, supporters, staff and other colleagues.
He then read a prepared statement documenting his efforts to “reinvent Humboldt County politics by encouraging, energizing and empowering the people of Humboldt County to envision the work for a common government that serves all of the people, and not just some.”
e said he did the same for the DA’s Office with a work ethic and leadership in the face of budget and staff reductions. That office, he said, “Seeks justice, not vengeance, for in my view, justice is the highest goal of mankind.”
He asked supporters for “your support, your sacrifice and your labor” against continuing challenges.
He listed “seven sins” first enumerated by Mohandas Gandhi: “Wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice and politics without principle.”
Berg then praised Gallegos’ “fabulous speech,” and brought the candidate back to the mic for press questions.
The first was what he thought his failures might be and what he learned from them. “Coming back up here to answer that question,” he joked. Then he said that he didn’t “look at the world through failures,” but that he viewed setbacks as “learning experiences.”
Next he was asked about remarks in a Feb. 17 Arcata Eye news story in which he said, with regard to marijuana cases, that “the first key is to remove the hyperbole” and to remain mindful of civil liberties. “We cannot break the law; I’m not going to violate civil liberties,” he said in the story.
He was asked to specify what hyperbole he was referring to and who, if anyone, had suggested that he violate civil liberties.
“Absolutely,” he said. “That the guidelines are 100 plants,” he said. “That we have 1,000 homes in Arcata that are now grow homes as opposed to residences.”
The latter citation inspired giggles from some of his supporters, as the number is often misattributed as an invention of this newspaper.
“These all may be facts, but in the District Attorney’s Office we have to make decisions and analyze problems based on evidence, so whenever I hear these things, I say ‘where are we getting these numbers?’”
Told that it was an estimate by Jack Nelsen, head of the Humboldt County Drug Task Force, Gallegos said “There’s none of us that are immune from talking without having any evidence to support it.”
He said criminal law is a “balancing act between the freedoms of individuals and the rights of the community.”
The vagueness of cannabis laws, he said, “are an oddity” that require deft handling to avoid “rewarding the wicked... and punishing the innocent.”
He said cannabis violations are best handled via code violations and more routine forms of enforcement.