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3 vie for county D.A. seat

A former state representative and two top prosecutors will vie for Jackson County district attorney in 2012.

Rob Patridge, district director for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, and prosecutors Beth Heckert and David Hoppe all said this week they will run for the office, held by Mark Huddleston since 1992.

Huddleston was out of the office and could not be reached for comment on whether he'll seek re-election.

Patridge, who also is a former Jackson County deputy district attorney, Medford city councilman and general counsel for Pacific Retirement Services, said he would like to see the district attorney's office be more collaborative with local nonprofit agencies such as the Southern Oregon Meth Project and law enforcement agencies.

"I think there's an opportunity to make the D.A.'s office a lot more community-focused," Patridge said.

"(It) needs to be involved to raise community awareness about things that affect our valley."

Chief Deputy District Attorney Beth Heckert has been with the prosecutors' office for 23 years, after being hired right out of law school.

Heckert has worked with child abuse victims, the drug task force and juveniles. She currently supervises six attorneys in the office.

"I think I have a lot of experience to run our office," Heckert said.

Her key focus would be streamlined communication between victims and their attorneys, she said.

"I think there are areas we can improve on to keep victims posted to what's going on with their cases," Heckert said. "Just to continue to improve and refine on what we're doing."

Heckert, lead prosecutor on the Criado murder case, said she does not yet know when she will announce her candidacy.

"The case has taken a lot of my time in the last couple weeks," she said.

Deputy District Attorney David Hoppe has worked in the district attorney's office since 2000 following a year and a half with the Klamath County District Attorney's Office.

In June, Hoppe prosecuted and won the case against Benjamin James George, the man convicted of murder by abuse and first-degree assault for crushing 2-year-old Kacy Sue Lunsford to death. George was sentenced to life in prison.

Hoppe also has worked with several domestic violence and sexual assault victim task forces.

Hoppe said he hopes to strengthen the relationships the district attorney's office has with those agencies. He said he'd also like to train employees in a variety of cases instead of assigning them to specific types.

"So people aren't bearing the brunt in certain cases," Hoppe said. "I want to avoid burnout. I want to make it interesting."

Hoppe said he does not have a date planned to announce his candidacy.

Candidates can file for the office from Sept. 8 to March 6 in time for the May 15, 2012, primary.

Ryan Pfeil is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4468 or at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.