The novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has affected everything from health to the economy and even the election process.
Take the latter, for example.
Had the pandemic not struck, voters would have gone to the polls and elected a new district attorney Tuesday, May 19. And by late Tuesday and most certainly Wednesday morning, voters in the eight-county Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit would have known which of the two Republican candidates would represent them for the next four years.
But because of the pandemic, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger postponed that election and rescheduled it for Tuesday, June 9.
Since the candidates are running in the same political primary, and there are no other candidates in the race, it means it’s winner take all in the upcoming election.
The race pits T. Wright Barksdale, an assistant district attorney, against Carl Cansino, a well-known criminal defense trial lawyer and former assistant district attorney.
The two men are vying for the seat currently held by Ocmulgee Circuit District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley, who opted not to seek re-election. Bradley is running unopposed for the judgeship seat held by Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge William A. Prior Jr.
Prior will step down from the bench on a full-time basis come Dec. 31.
Early voting began Monday at courthouses throughout the eight-county circuit, which includes Baldwin, Putnam, Jones, Wilkinson, Hancock, Greene, Jasper and Morgan.
The 33-year-old Barksdale, a native of Washington County, but who resides in Jones County with his family, has served as an assistant district attorney with the Ocmulgee Circuit District Attorney’s Office for the past seven years.
Barksdale, who began his career as a prosecutor at age 25 with the Paulding County District Attorney’s Office, is a graduate of Georgia Southern University and John Marshall Law School.
Before becoming an assistant district attorney, he served as an intern in the solicitor general’s offices in Baldwin and Fulton counties.
Barksdale, who primarily prosecutes cases in Putnam and Hancock counties, declared that he has prosecuted more criminal cases in the circuit in the last seven years than any other prosecutor.
Barksdale has successfully prosecuted several murder cases since being hired by the late Fred Bright, who served as district attorney of the circuit before Bradley took over.
One of those cases was the high-profile murder trial of Frank Causey, who was convicted of the brutal murder of Lydia Ivanditti, former director at the Eatonton Plaza Arts Center. Barksdale later prosecuted four inmates in two separate trials in Hancock County Superior Court in Sparta for the brutal stabbing death of an inmate at Hancock State Prison.
Barksdale is a member of the prosecution team involved in the death penalty trials of two state inmates, Ricky Dubose and Donnie Rowe, who are accused of shooting to death a pair of state corrections officers during a daring daylight escape from a state prison transport bus near Eatonton on June 13, 2017.
Cansino, who lives in Milledgeville with his family and who has successfully operated his law firm, Casino and Associates, LLC for the past several years, meanwhile, began his career as an assistant district attorney under the late Fred Bright, too.
The 49-year-old Cansino has represented numerous clients since leaving the district attorney’s office after seven years. He had a successful career as an assistant district attorney where he too, prosecuted several murder cases as the lead prosecutor and assisted both Bright and Bradley in several other high-profile criminal cases.
Cansino attended Florida State University in Tallahassee where he completed his undergraduate work before graduating from John Marshall Law School.
Cansino’s first job after law school was in Cordele. He worked there for a year before he came to Milledgeville to work as an assistant district attorney.
Cansino has 21 years of experience as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer.
Since 2005, Cansino has served as the municipal prosecutor for the city of Milledgeville, an appointed position.