In the final campaign stretch, Democratic district attorney hopeful Bruce Brown is making a hard drive for the win with a negative ad blitz going after his opponent deputy district attorney Scott Turner's history in the prosecutor's office.
The ads target a high-profile hit-and-run case out of Eagle County, in which District Attorney Mark Hurlbert offered a misdemeanor plea deal to the driver of a Mercedes, financial advisor Martin Erzinger, who hit a cyclist and fled the scene of the accident in 2010.
"Get out of jail free cards for millionaires," states one of the radio ads currently airing in Summit County. "That's the record of Scott Turner and the current leadership in the DA's office."
Turner responded with ads of his own and denied any involvement in the Erzinger case.
In a runoff reminiscent of the 2008 presidential election, Brown, a private defense attorney, is promising a change in leadership style in the DA's office against Turner's experience-based campaign platform. He's defending the ads, which aim to group Turner in with his sometimes-unpopular boss, Mark Hurlbert, who is also a Republican.
"I don't consider it negative," Brown said of the ad campaign, which also targets the prosecutors office's success rate on rape cases. "It's fair to say they're hard hitting. But my opponent is running on a platform of experience ... you have to be willing to be held accountable for things that have happened on your watch."
Turner says he has the material to return fire with negative ads targeting Brown, but has opted not to use it.
"The district attorney's office should be above the lies and deception of normal politics," he said. "The DA is dealing with people's freedom and lives and I don't see how politics plays into that at all."
Brown's ads also highlight the district attorney's 40 percent success rate in prosecuting sexual assault cases, a number Turner said sounds low until it is compared with the statewide average, which is closer 25 percent.
"If you say to somebody, you're going to fail two out of three times in your career, most people would think that's horrible," Turner said. "Unless you're a baseball player, and then that puts you in the hall of fame. Sex assault cases are the hardest cases to try."
The 5th Judicial District Attorney is responsible for a $3 million budget and prosecuting cases originating in Summit, Eagle, Lake and Clear Creek counties.
Eleven of the 12 county commissioners in the four counties in the district have backed Brown for the job, but none of the endorsements cross party lines.
"The importance of that is that the commissioners have oversight of the DA's office," Brown said. "It's not just an endorsement personally, but the fact that they're directly involved in the administration of our DA's office, and they would give me approval."
The Summit County commissioners, all of whom are Democrats, cited Brown's prosecution philosophy and emphasis on rehabilitation for young and first-time offenders in a recent letter backing him.
Turner said to him the endorsements seem to be based on partisan ties.