With the recent decision by Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge William A. Prior Jr. not to seek re-election, District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley is opting to seek the judgeship seat as opposed to seeking re-election as prosecutor.
Prior said Monday he will serve out the remainder of his current term, which ends Dec. 31. He doesn’t plan to retire, though. Instead, he plans to become a senior judge and preside over special assigned cases within and outside the circuit.
Bradley said as he learned that Prior was not seeking re-election, it prompted him to think about seeking the seat being vacated by the longtime judge.
“Judge Prior has been an outstanding jurist and he has left an outstanding legacy in this circuit that is going to be unparalleled,” Bradley said in an interview Monday morning. “Hopefully, I can continue that legacy.”
Bradley said his decision to seek the judgeship as opposed to seeking re-election to another four-year term as district attorney had not been an easy one.
“I have a wonderful job that I enjoy with great people doing wonderful work, Bradley said. “However, I have gotten a number of signs — not just people’s encouraging, although that has been really just amazing what people have said to me,” Bradley said. “Every answer that’s come back has been this is where I need to be, so I guess this is where I’m called. I was called to be D.A. and now I guess I’m called to run for judge.”
He pointed out that this opportunity was not something that he sought.
“This was really not something that I was seeking,” Bradley said. “This was something that was brought to me and urged upon me.”
Bradley said he plans on serving the people of the circuit if elected as the new judge the same way he has done as district attorney.
“Hopefully, if I get the job, I plan to serve the people of this circuit very well,” Bradley said.
Even though Bradley is seeking to become elected to seat that Prior now holds, he, like Prior, will continue serving out the last year of his four-year term as district attorney.
“I am the elected district attorney through the end of this year,” Bradley said. “We have a number of big cases and we’re ready on all of them. Hopefully, we’ll get those cases disposed of this year.”
Of the big cases expected to be prosecuted this year, none are any bigger than the death penalty cases of Ricky Dubose and Donnie Rowe in Putnam County. They are tentatively set for trial in the summer.
The election for judgeship is Tuesday, May 19.
Qualifying, meanwhile, for local and state elections is the first week of March.
Bradley said he is proud to say that he inherited the office from Fred Bright in what he considers excellent shape.
“And it’s in even better shape today,” Bradley said. “And so my successor will receive a very strong office full of tremendous people.”
Bradley said he is proud of the fact that as a prosecutor he has always gotten along well with other elected officials and state agencies.
And now two members of the district attorney’s staff have expressed interest in seeking the office currently held by their boss — T. Wright Barksdale and Dawn Baskin.
The 33-year-old Barksdale, who lives in the Jones County city of Gray, has served as an assistant district attorney for the last seven years. He primarily prosecutes criminal cases in Putnam and Hancock counties.
The circuit, the largest in Georgia, is comprised of Baldwin, Putnam, Greene, Morgan, Jasper, Jones, Hancock and Wilkinson counties.
Barksdale was the first unofficial announced candidate to state publicly that he is interested in seeking the office of district attorney.
“I announced on Facebook Friday that I was a candidate for district attorney,” said Barksdale, a native of Washington County.
Baskin, one of two senior assistant district attorneys, meanwhile, said Monday afternoon that after talking over the idea with her family and close friends that she has also decided to seek the office of district attorney.
Like Barksdale, Baskin also resides in Jones County.
“I walked into court on Thursday morning and I had a chief judge and I had a boss,” Baskin said. “And by 9:15 a.m., it was apparent that I wasn't going to have either.”
She was referring to Prior and Bradley.
“It was very shocking,” Baskin said concerning the news about Prior not seeking re-election. “And we had heard the rumors of the possibility that [Bradley] was going to do this. When we lost Fred (Bright), we knew it was coming. We knew back then that Steve was going to be taking over and there was comfort in that.”
Baskin said it has been a long time since the district attorney’s office has faced this kind of decision.
Baskin said she got on the phone with every member of her office and explained to them that with the chief A.D.A living outside the circuit and another senior D.A. living outside the circuit, she felt like it was up to her to step up and run for the office of district attorney.
She said she made her decision to seek the office Saturday morning.
“I made it abundantly clear to the people that I talked with that my decision was contingent upon Steve’s decision and that I wasn’t going public until Steve did,” Baskin said.