PORTSMOUTH — The five candidates for Rockingham County Attorney have been invited to a candidates forum, where they will field questions crafted by fellow lawyers about why they want to be the county’s next top law enforcement officer.
Four Republicans are expected to face off in less than a month on the Sept. 9 primary.
The winner in the general election will replace former County Attorney James Reams, who held the position for 16 years. He retired after a months-long battle with state prosecutors over being suspended from his elected post.
Reams was facing state removal proceedings for alleged ethical violations, sexual harassment and mismanagement of a forfeiture account. He denied any wrongdoing.
Ralph Barbagallo, president of the Rockingham County Bar Association, said his organization decided to host the event, given that the public may have a higher-than-usual interest in the job because of all the recent publicity surrounding the county attorney’s office.
The Republican candidates are Assistant Rockingham County Attorney Patricia Conway, of Salem; police prosecutor Michael DiCroce, of Fremont; Salem police prosecutor Jason Grosky of Atkinson, and Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Michael Zaino, of Hampton.
Joseph Plaia, a Portsmouth-based defense lawyer, is the sole Democrat in the race.
Barbagallo, who will moderate the event, said a five-member panel of board members came up with a series of questions to ask the candidates. Each candidate will be given two minutes to speak before the question and answer forum.
“The questions cover a pretty broad area,” he said. “We’ve put a lot of time and thought into crafting them, so it will give people an idea of what someone would do if they were elected.”
Candidates will not have a chance to ask each other questions, a format that is sometimes used during debates or candidate forums, according to Barbagallo.
“We thought about doing that and we decided that we don’t want to have a free-for-all,” he said. “If they want to address each other when they are answering questions, they can do that.”
The forum is being held Tuesday, Aug. 19, at the Portsmouth Public Library. Doors open at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.