Northampton County District Attorney candidate makes his case to voters in primary's waning days
EASTON, Pa. — Northampton County District Attorney candidate Stephen Baratta held a news conference in the county courthouse rotunda Thursday to lay out his argument to voters with the municipal primary less than two weeks away.
- Northampton County District Attorney candidate Stephen Baratta laid out his case to voters in a press conference Tuesday
- He's running to unseat incumbent district attorney Terry Houck, who is seeking a second term
- Baratta said Houck's oversight of the district's attorney's office shows incompetence; Houck calls the accusations lies
Baratta is challenging incumbent District Attorney Terry Houck in the Democratic primary.
A Republican challenger has not yet emerged, meaning the May 16 primary likely will decide who takes office next year, barring a write-in campaign.
Speaking for more than an hour, Baratta relentlessly attacked incumbent Houck, who is seeking a second term.
A former Northampton County judge, Baratta accused Houck of creating low morale among the office’s employees, citing turnover among staff, and criticized prosecutors’ performance at jury trials.
He referenced a slate of prosecutions he said show “incompetence” and unethical behavior.
Incumbent pushes back
As he has from the beginning of his campaign, Houck pushed back, saying the criticism was all lies.
“I have never witnessed the lies and misrepresentations I've seen in the last four months.” Houck said about Baratta’s campaign. <br/>Northampton County District Attorney Terry Houck
“I have never witnessed the lies and misrepresentations I've seen in the last four months,” Houck said about Baratta’s campaign.
“I'm talking about criminal defendants, I'm talking about witnesses, everybody I've dealt with as a cop.”
He defended the turnover in his office as typical of what other offices were seeing amid a statewide shortage of prosecutors, and said his conviction rate is on par with other district attorneys and his predecessor's.
Houck is touting the results he achieved in his first four years as district attorney through programs such as gun buybacks, and problem-solving courts.
Houck began his career as a police officer in Philadelphia, before getting his law degree and becoming a prosecutor in Bucks County.
In 2006, he was appointed as Northampton County’s first full-time first assistant district attorney under then-District Attorney John Morganelli.
Baratta served as a Northampton County judge for 25 years, resigning the position near the end of last year specifically to run against Houck, he said.
Before his 1997 election to the bench, Baratta also served as first assistant district attorney under Morganelli.
Only registered Democrats will be able to vote in the race between Houck and Baratta.