Two candidates hired by former Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane are running to replace Oklahoma County District Judge Vicki Robertson.
One of the candidates is former Assistant District Attorney Cindy Truong, who emigrated from Vietnam when she was 11. Truong's father worked with U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War, and so had to leave the country when Saigon fell in 1975. Truong and the rest of the family followed later.
Her opponent, Pat Crawley, another veteran assistant district attorney, said he ran away from his Wichita, Kan., home when he was 14, finding refuge in appliance boxes in an alley behind a Chinese restaurant. According to Crawley, he worked at the restaurant for about 10 cents an hour until he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 16.
Both candidates were hired by then-DA Lane: Truong in 2000, and Crawley in 2003. Both had accomplished records as prosecutors, and both have legal backgrounds in various disciplines. Crawley is qualified in civil and criminal law; Truong has experience with civil, criminal and juvenile law.
Crawley's former boss is endorsing him and on record criticizing his opponent.
Lane posted an endorsement on Crawley's Facebook page on Sept. 8: "Having hired and worked with both you and your opponent, you are the clear and only choice for the job. You are an outstanding legal mind and a mature and thoughtful individual."
When Oklahoma Gazette asked Lane about his endorsement, the former district attorney said he had worked with both candidates "a great deal" and reiterated his support of Crawley, although he called Truong a "fine lawyer."
Lane then went on to call her a "sad chapter" in his experience as DA: "My particular disappointment with Cindy is also that when she is not getting her way, she feels very free to play the race victim card. I just think most citizens are tired of that sort of thing. I know I am."
Lane recommended that the Gazette check his assessment with a current or former employee. Jeanette Zimmerman, a 24-year employee of the District Attorney's office, said she was hired by Bob Macy and currently serves as District Attorney David Prater's administrative assistant.
Zimmerman, who called her time with Wes Lane a "unique experience," said she was surprised that he knew enough about Truong to comment because "during his tenure, he was seldom ever there." Zimmerman said she has worked with Truong for many years, and she has met no one else with her "work ethic, skills with the public, passion and genuine concern for victims and their families."
"Cindy would never use being Asian as a way of getting what she wants," she said. "She does what's right."
Ethnicity has been an issue in this campaign already. Crawley used robocalls in his campaign that said: "Cindy Truong wants to be a Vietnamese judge and is trying to trick you into voting for her, claiming she is law enforcement's choice. Pat Crawley is an Oklahoman who seeks to be an American judge who does not interpret the law to meet liberal viewpoints."
Crawley said he was responding to a flyer that touted Truong as a Vietnamese judge, but Truong's campaign has denied it produced the flyer. Zimmerman said she saw the man who was passing out the flyers near the DA's office, and that he has been a "fixture" around that office for many years.
"He passes out flyers, wears T-shirts with messages and changes his allegiances with the wind," she said.
Truong replied to Lane's comments in a written response: "He (Lane) could not competently run the DA's office, and when anyone would question him about anything, he would either fire them or claim that they were out to get him."
Truong filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Lane, and she said she believes that is the impetus behind Lane's statements. The lawsuit alleged Truong was paid a different amount than other assistant district attorneys. Truong dropped the suit when David Prater assumed the job.
"My problem was not with the people of Oklahoma County," Truong said, "so when Wes Lane was voted out, I called Mr. Prater and told him I'd drop the suit."
Both candidates also claim the support of the police. Sky Kays, second vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 123, said Crawley has the official endorsement of the statewide FOP. Truong said she has been endorsed by "several" lodges and one police department.
Crawley and Truong both asked Oklahomans to judge the contest on their qualifications and their legal experience, not on race or gender. The election is Nov. 2. "Greg Horton
top photo Cindy Truong
bottom photo Pat Crawley