If Republican Kevin Brackett wins a full term as solicitor, his office will help open an alternative school for young offenders and hire more accounting experts to prosecute identify theft and credit card fraud.
If Democratic challenger Phil Jamieson takes over, less money will be spent on perks such as in-house cars and cell phones and more respect will be paid to police agencies across the 16th Circuit.
The two candidates clashed over these and other topics Friday at a wide-ranging luncheon debate put on by the York County Bar Association.
For the better part of an hour, Brackett derided his opponent's experience level and command of the budget process.
"I simply do not believe Mr. Jamieson understands the responsibilities of this office," he said. "To think he might take the helm ... is absolutely terrifying to me."
Jamieson countered that Brackett has fostered an aloof and arrogant culture inside an office that spends $61,000 a year on employee cars and $12,000 on cell phones.
"When you demean law enforcement in the media and open court, that's just not right," he said, referring to a recent dispute between Brackett and the city of York Police Department. "When your budget goes up every year and your caseload does not, that's not right, either."
Jamieson, a police officer-turned-attorney, is running against the handpicked successor to former solicitor Tommy Pope. Brackett joined the office in 1991 and took over when Pope retired in 2006.
The 16th Circuit covers York and Union counties.
'You're no Tommy Pope'
A memorable exchange came when Jamieson defended his credentials by recalling how skeptics labeled Pope too young when he ran for solicitor in 1992. Pope was 29 at the time.
"I can't believe he gave me this opening but I'm going to take it," replied Brackett, winding up for a reprise of a famous line from the 1988 vice presidential debate. "I know Tommy Pope. I've worked with Tommy Pope. Philip, you're no Tommy Pope."
As Brackett tried to avoid grinning, Jamieson moved to clarify: "If anybody thought I was saying I'm Tommy Pope, I'm not," he said. "If I were, I'd be a much better speaker."
Too slow on McKown?
Brackett disputes the notion that his caseload has decreased. He cited figures showing that 4,400 warrants were taken out in the 2001-02 budget year, compared to 6,700 in 2007-08.
Jamieson brought up a public spat with York Police Chief Bill Mobley that erupted after Brackett publicly accused Mobley's department of botching a murder investigation.
"I wish I had handled that differently," Brackett said. "I wish I had picked up the phone and called Bill Mobley right from the beginning."
Brackett went on to say the relationship is now "better than it's ever been."
The concession did little to satisfy Jamieson. "It's unfortunate it was ever damaged in the first place," he said. "If Kevin Brackett had ever been a police officer, as I have, he would have understood their needs."
Later Friday, Mobley said relations have improved, though he didn't want to referee a back-and-forth between the two candidates.
"Whoever gets elected, we're going to work hand in hand," he said.