BROOKE COUNTY - If you ask Joseph Barki, the fact that he now lives in Wheeling should not impact his candidacy for Brooke County prosecutor. His opponent in the May 8 Democrat primary, Wayne Mielke, believes otherwise.
The two vie to replace retiring longtime Prosecutor David Cross. No Republican has filed in the race, so the winner of the primary election seems almost certain to be the county's next prosecutor.
- Barki, who said he has worked as an assistant prosecutor in both Brooke and Ohio Counties, grew up in the Windsor Heights area of Brooke County. He said West Virginia law only requires candidates for prosecutor to live somewhere in the state - not the particular county he or she is looking to serve.
"I am the only candidate with the relevant experience," Barki said in describing his work as an assistant prosecutor.
Barki said the most pressing crime in the county is the drug trade, which also leads to property crimes and potential violent crimes.
"The 'War on Drugs' is a difficult battle to win. I will seek penitentiary sentences for those committing drug crimes, but I also believe rehabilitation is an important part of this battle," he said.
Barki said he is committed to a solid working relationship with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Wheeling.
- Follansbee resident Mielke said he has 37 years worth of law practice experience under his belt. Although he acknowledges state law allows Barki to run for prosecutor, he said being a resident of the county one is going to represent is "fundamental."
"If he wants to represent Brooke County, he should live in Brooke County," Mielke said. "He can't even vote for himself."
As for the main criminal matters in the county, Mielke said, "Drugs are a horrific crime here."
He also said maintaining a solid working relationship with the U.S. Attorney's Office is important in working to curtail crime in West Virginia's Northern Panhandle.