Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Time to read
3 minutes
Read so far

D.A. candidates answer tough questions

Posted in:

Barksdale, Cansino take part in online campaign forum

  • Article Image Alt Text
    Carl Cansino
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Wright Barksdale

Local voters recently had a chance to check out the two candidates in the upcoming Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s election, all while social distancing.

Wright Barksdale, a prosecutor from Jones County, and Carl Cansino, a Milledgeville defense attorney, each took part in the digital candidate forum, which appeared on the Jones County/Gray Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page and is still viewable on the platform.

Although both men are running as Republicans, the 67-minute Facebook Live video demonstrated some contrasts between the two candidates. Whether intentional of not, Barksdale came across more as the old-school “tough on crime” candidate. Also, whether intentional or not, Cansino was more measured and diplomatic in his comments, and he came across as the elder statesman.

“I hope that we never have to seek the death penalty, but sometimes it is necessary,” said Cansino, when asked about the topic.

“The death penalty is a tool, and there are certain crimes that, when they fit the criteria, I’m gonna use that tool. I am. I’m gonna use it,” said Barksdale, when asked the same question. Barksdale then added that he would consider pursuing the death penalty in deadly home invasions, if elected.

The themes were repeated when each candidate was asked about accountability courts, also referred to as drug courts.

“It does bring tears to your eyes when you see a graduate of drug court, who has gone from what they feel is rock bottom, to being a solid productive citizen and a most valuable member of society,” said Cansino, adding that he’d like to expand accountability courts to all eight counties in the judicial circuit.

Barksdale, meanwhile, used his time to say that accountability courts are not a great fit for all defendants.

“I do not believe that accountability courts should be used for people with multiple felony convictions and career criminals. I don’t believe that there’s a place for drug dealers in our accountability courts, and I firmly believe that those people need to be in prison, not accountability courts,” he said.

The theme once again was repeated when asked about criminal justice reform. Cansino lauded former Gov. Nathan Deal for his criminal justice reforms, saying that they’d “been a long time coming.”

“We were incarcerating so many people, and the recidivism rate wasn’t changing,” he said. “We need to keep the prisons available and open to those who commit the most egregious crimes.”

Barksdale, meanwhile, said that Georgia’s criminal justice reforms have “hurt the safety and well-being of our citizens, hands down.”

“It’s frustrating. We’ll get a 10-year prison sentence on a drug dealer, and…they serve a year-and-a-half or

two years of it, and then they come back out and do it again,” he said. “I don’t think that people understood the ramifications (of criminal justice reforms), but… people are being victimized who should not be victimized, because that criminal should be in prison.”

Cansino, who also is the current prosecutor for Milledgeville’s municipal court, used his closing statements to focus on his experience.

“The (District Attorney) has got to have the necessary experience, not only experience as a layer, but life experience,” he said. “Nearly half my life has been spent practicing law, whether it be criminal defense, whether it be prosecution of defendants. The most important thing is experience.”

Barksdale used his closing comments to focus on his middle Georgia roots and desire to serve.

“I genuinely love the our area (and) the communities that make up who we are. Going even back to my dad and my grandfather, we’ve been community-oriented. My grandfather was a 20-year member of the county commission in Washington County, and my dad was on the school board,” he said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am to be from the family that I am. They stressed to me about making sure you do what you can to make your community better.” Cansino, 49, grew

Cansino, 49, grew up as an army brat and received his law degree in 1996. He relocated to Baldwin County in 1998, and he and his family live in Milledgeville. Cansino was an assistant district attorney between 1998 to 2004 and then established his own legal practice. Cansino, whose parents grew up in the Philippines, is looking to become the first Asian-American district attorney in Georgia, as well as the first minority D.A. in the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit.

Barksdale, 33, grew up in Washington County and received his law degree in 2013. He and his family live in Jones County. Barksdale was an assistant district attorney in Paulding County for roughly a year before joining the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit as an assistant district attorney. His territory currently is Putnam and Hancock counties.

The moderator of the candidate forum was Debbie Lurie-Smith, editor of The Jones County News, which is The Baldwin Bulletin’s sister newspaper.