Douglas County District Attorney David McDade has decided to not seek re-election after doctors told him Friday that it will be several months before he can return to work.
McDade confirmed his decision in an exclusive interview with the Sentinel on Friday, the same day that that Chief Assistant District Attorney Brian Fortner filed paperwork that would allow him to start raising campaign funds. Earlier, veteran DeKalb County prosecutor Elizabeth Dalia Racine filed similar paperwork and is poised to mount a run for the office as well.
“With qualifying coming up in a week or so, I though the appropriate thing to do was to go ahead and consult doctors and make a decision,” McDade said Friday. “By announcing it now, Brian has ample opportunity to organize and campaign so that this office can continue the mission that we have worked so hard to accomplish during my time here.
“When Brian came back over, there was always a plan that when my time was done that he would be a perfect choice to lead this office. Because of my health, that is happening sooner than we had all anticipated. But regardless of timing, it doesn’t change the fact that he is perfectly suited for this job. I’m confident that he is ready to lead the people here and continue to the fight for justice and victims rights that has been our trademark for the last 30 years.”
McDade was admitted to WellStar Cobb Hospital on Dec. 6, a day after going to a doctor for what he thought was to get a final clearance before having back surgery. After a routine exam found poor circulation, two subsequent ultrasounds found almost total blockage. Doctors told him on Dec. 5 that they would likely have to amputate his lower right leg and possibly the same on his left.
But doctors agreed to try a series of surgeries to try to remove clots and blockages. In all McDade had four surgeries in 25 days, spent more than a month in intensive care was hooked to a pump until last week and has home health and rehabilitation working to keep him on the road to recovery. He had to undergo a graft Friday in an attempt help his surgical wounds to close.
He has been at home recovering for almost a month now.
McDade said he hopes to be able to get back to work at some point, so for now his decision not to run doesn’t mean he is leaving the position. He said doctors are waiting to see how he heals before committing to any kind of timetable for clearance.
“I have always told myself that I will never be a prosecutor that stays behind a desk,” McDade said “I will never be a leader who allows others to fight their battles in the courtroom. Our citizens expect and deserve more.”
In his career, he has tried more than 275 felony cases, including more than 60 homicided and has sought and successfully obtained the death penalty in 12 of those murders.
McDade crafted and lobbied for Senate Bill 13, which provides for a sentence of life without parole for anyone convicted of murder. He was also active in the passage of the Crime Victims Restitution Act and championed the Criminal Justice Act.
In 2009, McDade helped pass Senate Bill 151, which allows victim family members to present a pre-recorded audio or video impact statement to the Court during the sentencing phase of the trial, and Senate Bill 172, which gives victims who have suffered a mental injury broader access to state-funded counseling and therapy services.
McDade shrugged off talk of his own accomplishments, instead thanking everyone who has supported him through his health issues. He thanked his staff for all of their hard work, but saved some of the most touching words for his family.
“I’m most grateful for my family,” McDade said “They have been unselfish for 31 years, allowing me to live out my dream. Their silence gave a voice to crime victims. The time I spent apart from my family was justice gained for thousands of victims and their families. I have built a legacy for this office, but this health scare has forced me to look at a different future. It’s time for me to build a new legacy that’s focused on my wife, children and grandchildren.”
McDade’s decision makes for an interesting election decision for area voters.
Fortner, a graduate of North Georgia College and Georgia State School of Law, serves as the Chief Assistant District Attorney for the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office, overseeing the daily activities of 12 assistant district attorneys. Fortner, lives in Douglas County and has been prosecuting cases here for 13 years.
Fortner served as Solicitor General of Douglas County for five years after then-Governor Sonny Purdue appointed him to the office. He was elected to the position in 2008. Fortner received numerous awards and recognition during his time as Solicitor-General, including the prestigious Georgia Solicitor-General of the Year award in 2009. In 2011, Brian was recognized by the Fulton County Daily Report as one of Georgia’s top lawyers under the age of 40.
Fortner returned to the DAs office in April 2012 as Chief Assistant District Attorney. He has been a fixture in several high-profile cases, most notable of which was the Tracen Franklin murder conviction that he and ADA Bonnie Smith in the beating death of Bobby Tillman. In the three months since McDade’s health scare, he has been running the day-to-day operations of the office.
Racine was born in Brooklyn, New York and completed her undergrad at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fl with high honors. Next, Dalia graduated from Emory University School of Law, according to her campaign website.
Racine is also a veteran prosecutor. She began in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office handling aggravated assault, armed robbery, drug and burglary cases. Before being moved to the Crimes Against Women and Children unit before being assigned to Major Case where she prosecuted homicide cases, according to her bio.
Racine then moved to DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office where she was assigned to the Crimes Against Children unit. She handled cases involving children who are the victims of rape, child molestation, physical abuse, murder and human trafficking. There she developed a Human Trafficking protocol for DeKalb County along with the police department that includes training for officers and the community. She is also a member of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families CSEC (Commercially Sexually Exploited Children) Task Force.