Today The Albany Herald Editorial Board is presenting its endorsements in the races for State Court judge, coroner and county commissioner for District 3.
STATE COURT JUDGE
The State Court judge race between Magistrate Judge Victoria Darrisaw and attorney Christopher Warren is a non-partisan contest that appears on both Democratic and Republican ballots in Dougherty County.
The contest for this office, which is being vacated at the end of the year by retiring State Court Judge John Salter, is between two accomplished Albany attorneys — Victoria Darrisaw, currently a judge on the Dougherty Magistrate Court, and Christopher Warren, a private attorney with the Kenneth S. Nugent law firm’s Albany office and a constitutional law instructor at Albany State University.
Warren has been active in the community in his attempts to reach young people in an effort to steer them to more productive interests than those that will end up causing them to stand before a judge’s bench. Raised by a single mother in Washington, D.C., he avoided the pitfalls that trip up many young males and has carved out a successful law career that has given him experience both defending clients and prosecuting defendants. He’s a former solicitor of the Albany Municipal Court.
Darrisaw, whose parents were both Marines, was appointed to the Magistrate Court bench in 2009 by the judge she is seeking to replace. Before that, she served as an assistant district attorney in the Dougherty Circuit and the South Georgia circuit. During her time as a prosecutor, she handled misdemeanor cases in State Court and felony cases in Superior Court. One of the judges for whom she served as a law clerk was U.S. District Court Judge Louis Sands.
In both cases, the candidates indicate a desire to steer young defendants who have committed minor offenses away from a path toward becoming repeat offender adults who rarely escape the prison cycle. They both promise to be fair and to show respect from the bench.
We feel both are quality candidates. In making a recommendation, however, we believe the nod should go to Darrisaw based on the experience she already has on the bench.
The coroner’s contest is on Democratic Party ballots only and pits incumbent Emma Quimbley against challenger Michael Fowler.
Quimbley has served as Dougherty County coroner for eight years and is seeking her third term in office.
Fowler is a licensed mortician, and is a retired death investigation specialist and forensic pathology assistant with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
In our interviews, Fowler stressed his extensive experience, which includes responding to disasters ranging from the 1994 flood here in Albany to 9/11 in New York City to a tsunami in Thailand. In addition, he has assisted medical examiners in more than 4,000 autopsies.
Fowler said his expertise would be beneficial to law enforcement in questionable deaths and that his experience would benefit survivors who are going through the grieving process. “I want to help all I can for Albany to go to the next level,” he said.
Quimbley says she sees her job as serving both those who have died and those who are left to grieve. She estimates she has handled 3,000 cases over the past eight years and says she undergoes the 24 hours of required training each year, plus the training required by the coroners association.
In dealing with death scenes, she says, the job is to collect evidence properly and turn it over to law enforcement and the medical examiner. “We collect evidence,” she said. “Law enforcement doesn’t need me to solve cases for them.”
She also sees education as a role for her office, partnering with other agencies to take messages to young people about the realities of life and death. “When I’m called to a scene,” she said, “it means they made a bad choice. ... I use the coroner’s office as a teaching tool.”
In looking at the candidates, Fowler’s credentials are impressive while Quimbley has had nearly a decade of on-the-job training on the local level. Again, this is a contest in which we feel either candidate would do a fine job for the people of Dougherty County. In a close vote of The Editorial Board, we recommend that Quimbley be given a new term of office.
COUNTY COMMISSION DISTRICT 3
The race for Dougherty County Commission District 3 to succeed Muarlean Edwards, who is leaving the post after qualifying to run for state representative of District 153, is between Clinton Johnson and Louise Primrose. This election appears only on Democratic Party ballots.
This was the only contest in which a candidate — Primrose — would not meet with The Editorial Board to discuss issues in the race.
Johnson, youth coordinator for Greater 2nd Mt. Olive Baptist Church, projected a positive spirit in his desire to take a bigger leadership role in the community. He is chairman of the Albany Transitions House Advisory Board, an executive board member of Mount Olive Community Outreach Center and a political science student at Albany State.
“I’m out there in the community every day,” he said, “and I see what’s going on. (Primrose) is not out there in the muck and the mire, so I see my real opponent as crime, foreclosures, poverty — the actual problems of the community.”
He acknowledged that there had been a number of officials from his district who had run into trouble while in office. “I want to be part of changing that reputation,” he said.
He said he supported T-SPLOST because it would allow the whole region, including residents in his district, to utilize improved transportation infrastructure, and said he was proud of the growth in northwest Albany and Lee County because it set an example of what could happen in District 3 if it is cleaned up, including the crime. “What we’ve done here in the past is obviously not working,” he said.
Johnson says he is determined, dedicated and believes in transparency in leadership.
We recommend that the voters of District 3 elect Johnson on Tuesday and give him the opportunity to serve on the County Commission.