It seems that too often in modern political and civil life voters are faced with the prospect of choosing between the lesser of two evils at the ballot box. In the case of the race for the open seat in the local district county court, voters have just the opposite quandary. Two extremely well-qualified and well-suited candidates have emerged to fill an open judgeship. Tom Hill, an ex-prosecutor and veteran civil and defense attorney, and Wells Ashby, a respected local prosecutor and school board member, are both campaigning to fill the seat opened on the bench by the recent retirement of Judge Ed Perkins.
Hill is a former sheriff's deputy who worked his way up through the law enforcement ranks from humble blue-collar roots as the son of central California truck driver, putting himself through law school by cashing out his police retirement savings. Having later worked as a prosecutor and now as an attorney running a private practice, Hill has seen the law from all sides. We like his perspective and his even temperament. That said, we're giving the nod, albeit it narrowly, to Wells Ashby who we think will do the most to further the larger goals of community justice in Deschutes County. A seasoned prosecutor who has tried major crimes and served as the Deschutes District Attorney's trial team supervisor, Ashby has tried cases at the highest level of the state courts in Idaho where he worked as prosecutor and defense attorney. He also has experience early in his legal career in the private sector when he did corporate law in Colorado. However, it's not experience alone that swayed our opinion. We think Ashby has the clearest vision for the judicial system and its relationship with the community.
As a prosecutor Ashby has pushed a program that would allow offenders who are unable to fulfill community service requirements because of work and family obligations to earn credit for their hours by contributing cash to local food banks. It may not have taken the wisdom of Solomon to devise the idea, but it's a promising way to make a better use of offenders' time than allowing them to languish in our overcrowded jails. While we support locking up serious and repeat offenders, we agree with Ashby that the courts should promote treatment and diversion - proven methods to reduce recidivism - by maintaining and expanding programs like family drug court, DUII court and other non-traditional sentencing options. A proven community leader as well a local prosecutor and school board member, Wells Ashby is the best person to help our courts transition into the 21st Century.
(One important note about the ballot: a third candidate, TJ Spears, will appear. However, Mr. Spears is not campaigning and is no longer seeking the seat. As a result, voters can do themselves and the candidates a favor by voting for either Ashby or Hill now, avoiding the need for a run off race and the requisite campaign in the fall.)