York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said his office provides "efficient justice" while operating with a reduced staff on a tight budget.
However, his challenger Korey Leslie said he wants to be elected the new DA so he can run the office effectively by lowering the caseload and working better with police.
The two attorneys made their case during the York County Republican Club debate held Monday at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York Township.
Kearney, 61, of Springettsbury Township, and Leslie, 35, of Fairview Township, are seeking the York Republican nomination in next month's election. More than 100 people attended the debate.
Kearney said his office is among the most efficient DA's offices in the state. The average third-class county prosecutes 5,000 cases a year, he said.
However, in York County, 7,500 cases were prosecuted in during his first year in office, Kearney said. The prosecuted cases increased to 9,200 last year, an all-time county record.
"We're doing more with less and do it better than anyone in the state," he said. "We've tried more cases, with the exception of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. We had four percent of cases (remaining) on the docket after one year. The statewide average is 14 percent for counties our size."
However, Leslie said Kearney's numbers for prosecuted cases only prove that there has been an increase in crime and the DA's Office needs to work better with police to prevent criminal activity.
Leslie, who has a law office in York City, said as DA he also would work to lower the county courthouse caseload by having prosecutors attend preliminary hearings where district judges could render decisions.
Leslie said he has the endorsement of Fraternal Order of Police White Rose Lodge No. 15, the city's police union. He added that he would repair the strained relationship between the city police and the DA's Office, especially in determining how to reduce drug and violent crimes and get a handle on increasing gang activities.
"I understand you have to make decisions that are unpopular with law enforcement, but when you have a (good) relationship, they will know you're working with them and not against them," Leslie said.
Kearney said he does not seek endorsements from police agencies, as there are times when the DA's office has to do investigations or make decisions on matters concerning police conduct, shootings involving police, and on how to run crime prevention or anti-drug programs with police.
After the debate, Charles Kress, a city resident and a Democrat, said he will vote for Kearney.
"I think he's right not to seek endorsements from police departments," Kress said. "He has to work with all the departments as one. You don't want a situation where they expect you to make decisions (favoring) them because they endorsed you."
Spencer Newcomer, a Republican, said he's voting for Leslie because of the law enforcement endorsement. He said the DA's Office needs to have a good and functional relationship with police.
Newcomer, 43, also said he liked how Leslie used Kearney's case numbers to show that the DA's Office prosecuted a higher number of cases because there were more crimes.
"(Kearney) made it sound like (his office) was being efficient, but prevention is better than having to prosecute crime," Newcomer said.
-Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org.