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Prosecuting Attorney candidates speak

By John Miller, 05/18/22 7:30 PM

BEN HALE AND BLAKE MONTGOMERY

HOPE/PRESCOTT – Both candidates for 8th Judicial District North Prosecuting Attorney were interviewed Wednesday morning. Each was asked the same questions and answered in their own way.

The candidates are Ben Hale and Blake Montgomery, both from the area. Montgomery grew up in Hope while Hale was raised in Prescott.

Question 1: Why are you running?

Montgomery: “I’m running to serve Hempstead and Nevada Counties,” he said, adding he believes¬† he can lead the counties in a different, better direction for law enforcement. “I think we, as a district, have been too soft on drug dealers and habitual violent offenders.

Hale: “I feel it’s the best way to use my law degree,” he said. “I believe the knowledge I’ve obtained will allow me to better serve the public. Hale said being PA is a lot of responsibility when it comes to enforcing the law. He added just because someone can do something doesn’t mean they should. “I can use the law to help the communities by getting bad people out for the benefit of the rest.

Question 2: What are your qualifications for the job?

Montgomery: “I was the youngest attorney in the state at 22 with the top score on my bar exam. I opened my own practice and earned cases based on hard work and my reputation,” he said. Montgomery said he has a reputation of being successful in the courtroom and over the last seven years has represented around 2,000 clients. He represented the Hempstead County Library Board and was involved with a multi-million civil case. Montgomery said he’s represented businesses, governments, people, has practiced law in three states, in state and federal court, in circuit court in20 counties in Arkansas, before the Arkansas Supreme Court and Arkansas Court of Appeals.

Hale: “I grew up in Nevada County and went to public schools,” he said. “I know this community, it’s filled with low-income, hard-working, blue collar people. “We’ve all made mistakes in our life at some time and need a prosecuting attorney who understands and will be tough on repeat offenders.” Hale continued, saying, he’s worked in the PA’s office for four years where everything he’s done has been specializing in criminal law. “I don’t do other kinds of law, have no private clients, but I’m knowledgeable about criminal law more today than I was four years ago. If elected, I won’t have to learn how to be prosecutor on the taxpayer’s dime. I know how and won’t need to be trained. I’m ready to hit the ground running on day one. Hale added the PA’s office has a team of three deputy prosecutors, one victim witness coordinator, a trial court coordinator, hot check coordinator and a law enforcement coordinator. “We have people in place who know what they’re doing.”

Question 3: Why should people vote for you?

Montgomery: “People should vote for me because I have a clear vision of what I want to do with law enforcement in these counties,” he said. “This is the job I’ve been running for the last seven years. It’s what I wanted to do when I came back. It’s not a backup plan.” Montgomery said he things people believe as he does, adding these counties deserve the best the state has to offer in elected officials and law enforcement to punish those who seek to corrupt and endanger the communities through the sale of drugs and habitual violent crimes.

Hale: “People should vote for me because I don’t think I’m better than anyone else,” he said. “I have sympathy and empathy in my heart for the people of the community and am willing to work hard as it takes to get justice for victims and enforce the law in ways that make the community stronger and safer without tearing it apart. This isn’t just talk, I know what I’m doing and can back up what I say I’ll do.”

Hale continued, saying when he was little he had a healthy respect for law enforcement and the service those men and women give, adding he has their support because they know, respect and trust him. “They know I know the ins and outs of criminal law.” He recalled growing up and the family getting phone calls and visits from law enforcement officers in the middle of the night needing warrants signed as his father, Gene, was a judge. “People don’t see those sacrifices and need to know they’re leaders in the court system, devoting their lives, 24/7, to maintaining justice. I’ll be available when it calls.

“When my dad was judge, I learned government has a heavy hand, but you have to know when to use it and when to handle things with a more deft touch. You don’t have to use a sledgehammer to kill a gnat. Dad told me most people in the court system know they’ve done wrong and are generally sorry about it, but they still need to be treated with civility.” In criminal law, he added, people are being seen on their absolute worst days.

“As deputy prosecuting attorney I’ve learned I can’t always do what I want, but do what the law requires should be done. There are no shortcuts in justice,” he said, “It’s our burden and we’re gad to bear it. The PA’s office is not only responsible for enforcing the law, but doing so in a way that’s fiscally responsible to the community.” Hale said it costs $25,000 a year to house an inmate in prison. This provides for food, housing and caring for them, but doesn’t include the appellate litigation and other fees. “Plea agreements,” he added, “have little chance of being overturned on appeal.”

Question 4: Tell us about yourself?

Montgomery: “I’m married to Hannah Black Montgomery of Guernsay. We have a 14-month-old son, Andrew, and are expecting our second child, a daughter, in July.” He said the family are members of Unity Baptist Church in Hope and he’s a member of Gideon’s International, while Hanna is on the Hempstead County Women’s Farm Bureau. The family, he added, has a farm he works on, and he likes to hunt, mostly squirrel. They have cattle as well. Montgomery went to Hope schools, but graduated from the Arkansas School of Math and Science in Hot Springs, attended college and law school at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. He’s currently enrolled in Southwest Baptist Seminary working on Master of Theology studies.

In closing, Montgomery said if he’s elected, he’ll be the first PA not hand picked by the previous one.

Hale: “I graduated valedictorian from Prescott High School in 2005, attending school K-12 in Prescott,” he said. “my family has been in Prescott a long time, prior to the Depression.” Hale did his undergraduate studies and went to law school at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, adding he’s still a proud Razorback fan. He and his wife, Lizzy, have been married three years and are expecting their daughter, Evelyn, on election day. His mother, Kim, taught in Prescott and Hope schools around 40 years, and the family believes in public service.

“I’m proud of my wife,” he said, “She went door-to-door and walked the streets helping me campaign, though she was pregnant. So has my mother.” He added Lizzy is also from Prescott.

He likes the outdoors, fishing, hiking and playing golf. He and Lizzy attend church at the Place of Meeting in Perrytown.