Several candidates seeking judicial positions in the Rockdale County courts had an opportunity to campaign during a forum held by the South Rockdale Civic Association.
Candidates for Superior Court Judge, Magistrate Judge, Probate Judge and Clerk of Superior Court were each given a chance to field questions regarding their professional backgrounds and future plans if elected this November. The only incumbent who did not attend the forum was Superior Court Clerk Ruth Wilson.
Seeking the office of Superior Court Judge to replace Judge Sidney Nation, who is retiring this year, were Robert Mumford, Gary Washington and Earnelle Winfrey, who all attended the forum and discussed their extensive trial experience. Because the seat is nonpartisan, the election is July 31.
Robert Mumford began by detailing his legal career, which includes three elected terms as district attorney — the first time becoming the youngest DA elected in the state of Georgia at age 29. He said that he has handled in excess of 2,000 cases as a private attorney, with a large percentage of those being civil cases.
“The number of cases I have handled and the people I have dealt with in Rockdale County give me a unique perspective on our judiciary and on our county,” Mumford said. “I assure you that I am the person that is going to put the protection of our lives and property first.”
Candidate Gary Washington said he has been an attorney for over 25 years, currently has a practice in Conyers and has served as staff attorney to the United States Court of Appeals.
“We are looking for some who is experienced, who will rule with impartiality and fairness and has the appropriate judicial temperament — I’ve got that experience,” Washington said. “I am an advocate for the constitution and laws of the state. All I’ve wanted to do is practice the law and advance the law. I will be firm and fair, I will ensure everyone is respected and I will conduct myself with integrity both on and off the bench.”
Candidate Earnelle Winfrey is a life-long Georgia resident who has worked in Superior Court in Rockdale County as well as in private practice. Winfrey said she believes a judge should be honest, forthright, fair and efficient.
“Everybody who comes to my courtroom, no matter your socio-economic status, no matter your gender or color, that you are treated fairly and the laws apply equally to you,” Winfrey said. “It is also important that the court is efficient, because I believe justice delayed is justice denied.”
With challenger Phinia Aten absent, Magistrate Court Chief Judge Clarence R. Horne took the stage alone to discuss his desire to continue his service with election to a sixth term. Horne urged the crowd of nearly 100 citizens to vote for him because there “is absolutely no reason whatsoever to make a change.”
“I do the job and I do it extremely well. I have a highly trained staff who function extremely efficiently,” Horne said.
Incumbent Probate Judge Lillis Brown, running as a Republican, and challenger Charles Mays Sr., running as a Democrat, both discussed their passion for mental health and their plans to protect citizens with mental health needs. Democratic challenger Caycie Dix did not attend the forum.
“For 20 years, I’ve given good service to this community,” Probate Judge Brown said. “I have treated the cases that have come before my court fairly and impartially. I’ve worked really hard and put a lot of integrity and leadership skills into making it a very fine office.”
Mays said he has lived in the Rockdale County for eight years and said there is a need for more social services and volunteers to assist mental health patients.
“The community has to be involved and there has to be an education portion to that because in order for people to really understand what is going on they have to understand these people,” Mays said.
The last candidate to take the stage that night was Clerk of Superior Court candidate Holly Bowie, who said she feels there is an urgent need to elect someone with legal experience to replace incumbent Ruth Wilson.
Bowie said if elected she plans to put all money raised through passport fees back into operations of the office. She also plans to discontinue the Clerk’s website since Rockdale County already has a website that includes the Clerk of Superior Court’s office. She said she would have the direct numbers available for each employee for more accessibility, remove glass barriers in the office for privacy and personalization and she plans to improve the Board of Equalization.
“I am very passionate about the judicial system and serving the people,” Bowie said. “I am a records nerd.”