Democratic District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller and challenger Bernie Cantorna faced the voters, and each other, on Wednesday at the municipal building as part of League of Women Voters of Centre County Candidates’ Night.
Each candidate answered six questions provided by the audience and had the opportunity to offer a closing statement. The discussion was, at times, heated.
Cantorna and Parks Miller were asked about re-entry, plea agreements and experience, among other topics.
Cantorna, a partner in Bryant & Cantorna, said he’s been a lawyer for 27 years, working as a public defender and practicing criminal law.
His experience as a rugby coach at the collegiate and high school level has provided him with the knowledge of how to build teams and have people work together toward common goals, Cantorna said.
“Nothing trains you to be a DA but being a DA,” said Parks Miller, who has served Centre County in that capacity for the past seven years.
Over 23 years, she’s worked in prosecution, Parks Miller said, adding that she got her first conviction in a murder trial in 1999 and has had five convictions in murder trials since she’s been DA.
Candidates were also asked what they would do to ensure the District Attorney’s Office protects and respects victims of sexual violence through the legal process.
“We need to aggressively and professionally prosecute those cases,” Cantorna said. “When I say aggressively, what I mean is if we think a crime has occurred and it’s consistent with what’s in the interest of the victim and the community, then we should file those charges and not worry about the certainty of conviction ... . When I say professionally, I mean we need to listen to the victims and take their lives into account and ensure that they have a voice and that we treat them with respect.”
The DA works for crime victims, Parks Miller said, adding that her office has overhauled how crime victims are treated, specifically sexual assault victims.
“We have great results, we have great outcomes, and we treat sexual assault victims with dignity, and we are very aggressive in those prosecutions,” Parks Miller said.
Finally, candidates each had 90 seconds for closing statements.
The legal system in the District Attorney’s Office is fundamental and important to the community, Cantorna said.
“The system cannot work unless it has integrity and the trust of the people,” he said.
He also encouraged voters to do their research on the candidates and the issues.
“This whole entire election is about this: Who has the principles you want for DA, and more importantly, who has the experience? This job is not a joke; it’s not a hobby,” Parks Miller said.
She also said that Cantorna’s supporters are just as “devious” as he is, saying that some in the audience were mouthing mean things at her as she was talking.
“Is that not just the sign of a campaign that is desperate,” she said.