The Faulkner County League of Women Voters hosted a candidate forum for the two vying to be elected the next 20th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney on Monday.

David Keith, University of Central Arkansas journalism professor and former Log Cabin Democrat editor, moderated the forum.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Carol Crews focused on her experience as a trial attorney and in the prosecuting attorney’s office while her opponent Zach Throneberry argued that litigation experience is not necessary for the office.

“The truth of the matter is, over 95 percent of criminal cases never see a jury trial so that is a small minority of what we do. The elected prosecutor is there to manage the office. The former prosecuting attorney explained that very well,” Throneberry said. “My opponent likes to talk about my experience or lack thereof and the number of trials I’ve had. All told, that’s more than the last prosecutor ever had and he proved that it is much more than litigation.”

Crews said litigation isn’t the only area where she has experience.

“Make no mistake about it, I’m the only candidate in this race who has ever managed a staff, who has ever made hiring decisions and who has, day in and day out, been responsible for any other attorneys. That’s a big deal because there’s a staff of about 30 people in this district,” she said.

Asked about charging underage defendants as adults, Crews again referred to her experience, saying: “As a prosecutor, it’s a tough decision in certain instances whether or not to charge a 14 year old, a 15 year old, a 16 year old with a serious crime. It’s a hard decision to make but it’s one I have made time and time again.”

Throneberry said it’s important to look at each case.

“When it comes to juveniles, we do have the ability to charge them in circuit court as adults depending on the seriousness of the offense,” he said. “When you’ve got a troubled individual who’s struggling at home and is out committing petty crimes, that’s an instance where you could work with them, keep them out of the criminal system and try to build a better relationship and go from there.”

Keith said a former sheriff had noted that drugs were what led almost all of the inmates in the detention center at that time to commit crimes. He asked the candidates about how they think the drug issue should be addressed.

Throneberry said it’s important to take preventative measures.

“We need an age-appropriate drug program for our schools,” he said.

Crews said it’s not an easy problem to fix.

“There’s no doubt we do have a drug epidemic and so the answer is difficult and complex — it is to aggressively prosecute those who sell and traffic drugs. … It’s also to help people who are addicts, to help people who want to help themselves,” she said.

Early voting started Oct. 22 and continues from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays through Nov. 2, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 3 and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Faulkner County Courthouse, Faulkner County Library, McGee Sports Center, Mayflower City Hall, Vilonia First Baptist Church and Greenbrier City Event Center. Polls will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 6, at 22 vote centers throughout the county.