Superior judge race underway in Pataula Circuit

Superior judge race underway in Pataula Circuit
Judge Joe Bishop chose not to run for re-election this year. (Source: WALB)
Judge Joe Bishop chose not to run for re-election this year. (Source: WALB)

DAWSON, GA (WALB) - The race for the Pataula Judicial Circuit's judge position is underway.

On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Joe Bishop presented the candidates to the Dawson Rotary Club.

After nearly three decades on the bench, Bishop opted not to run for re-election.

"I'll miss doing a lot of the things, I do, but hopefully I'll be appointed senior judge and I'll be able to do some part-time work," explained Bishop.

Craig Earnest will sit as the chief superior court judge in the Pataula Circuit.

Father of five, Henry Balkom IV is from Quitman County where he is a probate judge.

"I was encouraged to run for probate judge by somebody who said, 'Henry, you've got all these skills and abilities,'" explained Balkom.

A mother of a toddler, Megan Lane Connell comes from Seminole County where she has experience working as a prosecutor and defense attorney.

"I believe my experience in court is what sets me above and makes me be the best candidate for the superior court judge in this circuit," explained Connell.

Father to three, Keith Day is from Blakely. He works as an assistant district attorney in the circuit.

"My judicial philosophy is that everyone that comes into court is treated with dignity and respect. They're all human beings," explained Day.

And finally, father of two, Chip Stewart Junior is from Donalsonville. He heads a general practice law firm and has past experience as a magistrate judge.

"A person that wants to be superior court judge needs to have personal experience handling all the cases that come before a superior court judge to be successful," said Stewart.

The candidates have big shoes to fill, but Judge Bishop said he'll be around for guidance and advice.

"Don't be quick on the trigger," said Bishop. "Listen to both sides and then, then analyze the arguments, think about the facts and make a decision you consider to be right and just."

Bishop said the most rewarding part of his job has been the drug court, which he opened 16 years ago.

It now serves people in all seven counties who have problems with substance abuse.

Election day is May 22.

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