GREENFIELD — Continuing their series of candidate forums, the Hancock County Young Republicans welcomed the community to the Hancock County Courthouse Annex Wednesday to hear from those vying for the Republican nomination for prosecutor.
No Democrats have filed.
Holly Gillham, chairwoman of the organization and moderator of the event, told the crowd she believes the prosecutor’s position is one of the most important because it has a great impact on the community’s safety.
Here’s what the candidates had to say:
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Grey Chandler takes pride in being a career prosecutor.
He’s never defended an accused criminal as a defense attorney, never fought on the side of money-grubbing corporations as a civil-case counsel, he said. Instead, he’s gone to work every day for the last 13 years fighting for the good of whatever community he’s working in, he said.
“A prosecutor is the only attorney whose client is justice,” Chandler told the crowd Wednesday. “I want to answer to justice. That’s why I’ve done what I’ve done all these years. It’s just who I am.”
Chandler of McCordsville received an undergraduate degree from Taylor University in Upland before heading to law school, enrolling in Fordham University in New York City. Just before passing the Indiana bar exam, Chandler completed an internship with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office.
That internship soon turned into a full-time job in the state’s capital. And in the 13 years that have passed, Chandler has been working at prosecuting attorney’s offices across the region — including an eight-year stint as a Hancock County deputy prosecutor under former Prosecutor Michael Griffin, who held office for one term before current Prosecutor Brent Eaton.
Currently, Chandler works in the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office.
If elected, Chandler said he’ll bring his passion for justice to Hancock County. He hopes to work alongside local law enforcement to crack down on sex and drug crimes, he said.
It took Brent Eaton 12 years to get it right, he joked.
Inciting laughter from the crowd Wednesday, Eaton — the incumbent county prosecutor — admitted he isn’t a great politician, having run for the office repeatedly over more than a decade before being elected in 2014.
“I’m not a particularly good politician,” he joked. “I’ve lost more elections than I’ve won.”
But his focus was never truly on winning elections, Eaton said; that was just a means to an end, he added. His focus, his goal, was to make the county prosecutor’s office better and, in turn, the community a better, safer place to live.
Since taking office, he’s created new positions to better serve Hancock County residents and reorganized the staff to bring about more convictions, Eaton said. He hired the prosecutor’s office’s first victim’s assistant 70 days into the job, got a grant to cover the salary of a deputy prosecutor who specializes in crimes against women and appointed a single deputy prosecutor to handle all drug crimes to ensure the cases are handled in a consistent way, he said.
Eaton is Hancock County native and graduate of Wabash College and Indiana University’s law school.
While Eaton touted the work he’s done in the prosecutor’s office for the last four years, Bob Elsea of Greenfield told the crowd Wednesday night that, if elected, he’d bring back parts of the “winning team” that ran the prosecutor’s office for nearly two decades 16 years ago.
After graduating from Ball State University and attending law school in Seattle, Elsea worked as the chief deputy prosecutor from 1968 to 2002 under Terry Snow, who now sits on the bench in Hancock County Superior Court 1.
When Snow announced his intention to run for judge in 2002, Elsea decided to run for prosecutor the same year, hoping to be his longtime boss’ successor. He lost by 200 votes and was forced to change paths, he said. Since then, he’s worked as a defense attorney locally, which he said has given him a well-rounded legal experience.
Over the years, he’s built great relationships with local attorneys, men who now lead the county’s legal system at every level, he said.
This includes Richard Culver, who served as the judge in Hancock Circuit Court for 30 years before retiring in October and who has now agreed to work as Elsea’s chief deputy should their campaign be successful. The pair coached football at Greenfield-Central High School together for many years in addition to working side by side in the courtroom each day, Elsea said.
“We were a winning team before, and we’ll be a winning team again,” he said.