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Longtime Hancock County prosecutor faces challenge

NEW CUMBERLAND — Two Hancock County attorneys believe that they are each the man destined to serve as county prosecuting attorney, but that decision ultimately is up to voters.

James W. Davis, who is the Democratic incumbent, is being faced by Republican challenger Steven Dragisich.

It is a freshman run for Dragisich, who decided that his diverse background could be an asset to county residents, after almost three decades under Davis.

An attorney for almost two decades, Dragisich had served for more than 12 years as an assistant attorney general for the State of West Virginia, largely prosecuting cases on administrative issues (i.e license revocations) as well as some appellate work.

He also heard approximately 40 cases a week as the municipal judge for the City of Weirton for five years, including traffic and misdemeanor criminal work.

Those experiences, as well as operating his own law firm, has provided Dragisich a significant amount of legal experiences to draw from, he explained.

The challenger believes that his accessibility is the biggest asset he brings to the job. “Communication and transparency is so important, and I don’t believe we have that in the community right now,” Dragisich continued, touting his relationship with law enforcement officials whether it is local police or Child Protective Service officials.

Davis, however, stands on his record.

First elected in 1992, after serving for 13 years as an assistant prosecuting attorney, Davis is in his seventh term. During his time as an assistant prosecutor, he primarily handled juvenile, abuse and neglect cases for the county as well as misdemeanor cases that included DUI. He also served as the legal council for the Hancock County board of education.

As Hancock’s top prosecutor, Davis said that he has tried hundreds of felony cases, including murders, sexual assaults and other violent crimes as well as founded the Hancock, Brooke and Weirton Drug Task Force.

Drug interdiction is something that both men have in common with Dragisich also favoring drug education in primary and secondary age county students that he denies occurs currently.

Dragisich also promised that he would be tough on drug dealers.

Davis is focused solely on eradicating the flow to drugs in the area by identifying the sources of the drugs and punishing the suppliers harshly.

“Hancock County, because of its location, is a target for dealers from Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and New York. I have personally convicted many of these dealers resulting in extensive prison terms for many of these persons,” Davis added. “On the lower end, we have the Drug Court program to attempt to assist persons willing to address their addiction,” committing property crimes in order to feed their habit.

While part of the job requires the prosecutor to serve as an administrator, both men vow to be “hands on” and in a courtroom regularly.

Currently, Davis said that he is in court at least once a week, personally handling preliminary cases as well as several grand jury sessions each year. “I am running, because I believe that my work has been and continues to be important. I believe that the citizens of Hancock County deserve a prosecutor who has proven experience and integrity,” he said, adding, “Anytime I question if the fire is still there for the job, all I have to do is speak with a victim. Then I know that there is no doubt that I want to continue to do this job and protect the citizens of Hancock County.”

Like Davis, Dragisich wants to be a hands-on prosecutor, doing a variety of cases and filling in where he is needed – not just the prominent, attention getting cases as in the case of many county prosecutors. “I want the opportunity, as I believe it is time for a change. This is a way that I can continue serving the community,” he concluded.

(Ujhelyi can be contacted at sujhelyi@reviewonline.com)

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