The 2020 election of Cobb’s top prosecutor could be the first competitive race for the seat in years now that Democrat Flynn Broady, a county assistant solicitor general, has announced his candidacy as a reform-minded “progressive prosecutor.”
Broady will likely face a Republican chosen by Gov. Brian Kemp, who has yet to select a replacement to serve out the rest of former DA Vic Reynolds’ term after Reynolds was tapped to lead the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Reynolds was first elected in 2012 and ran unopposed for reelection in 2016.
Broady, who ran unsuccessfully for Georgia’s 11th Congressional district last year, said he wants to address the “perception” — which he does not consider accurate — that the Cobb judicial system is unfair to minorities, by recommending equal sentencing for similar crimes and expanding accountability courts.
“I think Vic Reynolds did a great job,” said Broady. “I think he’s put a foundation down that we can build upon to make things even better for the county.”
Politically, Broady has the winds of change at his back as Cobb has become increasingly competitive for Democrats over the last few election cycles. However, the county hasn’t had a Democratic DA since 1976, and Broady seems to be taking pains not to alienate Republicans.
Broady said those who think progressive prosecution means being weak on crime are mistaken. Rather, he said it means focusing resources on dangerous criminals.
“Those nonviolent offenders, our drug-possession charges, our juveniles, we’re going to work to make sure that they can return back to society and be productive,” he said.
Emory law professor Kay Levine said progressive prosecution has become a trend among some local jurisdictions over the last five to eight years.
“The idea is that this strong embrace of law and order and public safety rationales have uncritically and reflexively contributed to mass incarceration across the country without regard to the impact to cost, communities of color and the relationship between police and those communities,” she said.
Levine said Gov. Nathan Deal, with his judicial reforms, was able to build a bridge between fiscal conservatives and those morally opposed to mass incarceration, but added: “I have not seen a prosecutorial election in Georgia where progressivism is openly on the ballot.”
The current interim DA, John Melvin, is slated to join Reynolds at the GBI once Kemp announces his decision. Melvin called progressive prosecution a “cute talking point.”
“While the laws are on the books, prosecutors should enforce the law,” he said.
Melvin said the next DA appointed by Kemp and whoever wins the 2020 election will have to contend with an escalating budget crisis, a rise in elder abuse cases and what he described as a “tsunami” of crime including gang activity.
“I hope that someday all district attorneys across the state can be nonpartisan,” he said. “It would serve the community well to get it away from that kind of division.”
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