A sleep-deprived Mark Dupree on Wednesday morning was still trying on the new title he will assume in January: Wyandotte County district attorney.
On Tuesday night, the young attorney upset incumbent Jerome Gorman in the Democratic primary. With no Republican opposition, in November he will become only the third person elected to the post since it was created in 1972.
“I’m really excited,” Dupree said. “I think the people of Wyandotte County said yesterday they’re ready for change.”
Dupree, a 34-year-old man of deep religious faith who is also a licensed minister, gave credit for his victory to the will of God.
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“This was absolutely a God thing,” he said.
Dupree ran on a platform of being proactive and not just reactive to dealing with crime in the community.
He said he would pursue initiatives to work with young people and those facing nonviolent drug crimes, mental health issues and exploring the establishment of a veterans court.
But he also vowed to be tough on violent criminals.
In January, he will be taking over an office staffed with experienced and well-qualified prosecutors.
And Dupree said he is looking forward to working with the staff.
“I’ve had a great working relationship with that office,” he said. “There are many great assistant district attorneys who are professional and good at what they do.”
Although the majority of Dupree’s legal career has been as a criminal defense attorney, he had interned in the Wyandotte County district attorney’s office and was an assistant prosecutor in Jackson County.
When he is sworn in in January, he will have to hit the ground running with some serious high-profile cases, including two potential death penalty cases that involve the killings of police officers.
Curtis Ayers is charged with capital murder in the May killing of Kansas City, Kan., Police Detective Brad Lancaster. And Jamaal Lewis is facing the same charge in the fatal shooting last month of police Capt. Robert Melton.
Gorman has previously said that a decision on whether to seek a death sentence in those cases has not yet been made.
Dupree said Wednesday that because he has not been privy to the evidence gathered in those cases, it would be premature to talk about how he might proceed in those prosecutions.
He said his focus with all cases will be on making sure they are handled “diligently and fairly,” and with the needs and welfare of victims in mind.
“I want victims to know that they are in mind while pursuing cases to make sure justice is done,” he said.
Gorman, a career prosecutor who has been district attorney since 2005, said Wednesday morning that it was too soon to comment on the election or what his plans are for the future.
Nick Tomasic was the first district attorney in Wyandotte County after the position was created in the early 1970s.
He served for 32 years before his retirement. Gorman had been a longtime assistant under Tomasic before his election.
When he was sworn in, Gorman said the office didn’t belong to Tomasic or him.
“We are merely torchbearers for the people of Wyandotte County,” he said.