Special to The Sun
For the first time in almost two decades there will be an open seat for District Attorney for Payne and Logan counties.
And, for Assistant DA Laura Austin Thomas the timing was right to announce her candidacy for a job she has patiently waited for.
The seat is open with current District Attorney Tom Lee retiring at the end of his term. The filing period is April 9-11.
I have always wanted to run for this office but the opportunity had not presented itself. This is the first time I could realistically file. I have been ready for this for a long time.”
Thomas has 30 years prosecution experience with the past 27 years having worked in Payne and Logan counties in multiple areas ranging from misdemeanors and felony offenses, juvenile delinquent and deprived, capital homicide to administering and managing two of the top performing child support offices in the state.
“I am uniquely qualified for this job,” Thomas said. “I have extensive felony trial experience. I am the only one that has had to stand up and ask a jury for the death penalty. I have experience all the way from traffic to death penalty in trying cases.”
Thomas also would be making a piece of local history as the first elected female district attorney for this district.
“If elected I would be the first female DA in this district,” Thomas said. “The system is still heavily dominated by male district attorneys.”
Thomas, who has three daughters with her husband, says if elected it will reinforce life lessons they taught their children.
Thomas said she is a strong believer that an aggressive juvenile division is the first line of influence and defense in the lives of children in crisis.
Thomas cited the example of wanting to start a program in the public school system aimed at helping students at risk through education and mentoring.
“I would like to partner with those in the community to establish an education program that begins in grade school and goes through high school that is aimed for women at risk,” Thomas said.
Thomas added that the successful collection of child support can remove children and families from poverty and government assistance. In 2013, Thomas was chosen Attorney of the Year by the Oklahoma Child Support Enforcement Association.
Thomas said she has been asked by other district attorney offices across the state to help improve their child support offices.
Thomas said she plans to continue her focus and resources in areas that will protect citizens including domestic abuse, abuse and neglect of children and elderly abuse.
“I strongly believe people should be held accountable and responsible for the consequences of their actions,” Thomas said. “I want to increase prosecution of those who willfully fail to pay child support, those who commit welfare and food stamp fraud and the career criminal.”
Thomas said she would also continue the Drug Court program in Payne and Logan counties whose success is patterned by other counties across the state.
Thomas recently made an appearance before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to argue against the recommended release of convicted murderer, Christine Biegler from Payne County.
“I’m appalled parole would be recommended to the board for this defendant who brutally slaughtered a 52-year-old disabled woman by stabbing her in excess of 30 times and slitting her throat from ear to ear resulting in an agonizing death,” Thomas said. “A jury recommended a life sentence in 1994, and the defendant has had numerous misconduct violations while incarcerated.”
Thomas said she looks forward to having an opportunity to visit with voters in both counties to share her vision for the district attorney’s high office.
FOR MORE information about Thomas’ candidacy, visit her website at www.lauraaustinthomas.org.