Here is why I am voting for Attorney Deborah Gonzalez and why I urge every other voter to do the same.
For many years, a good-old-boy system has been used to deprive Georgia voters, including the voters in Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties, of the right to choose by election judges and district attorneys.
The system is both simple and effective. The incumbent judge or district attorney resigns before the end of his or her term of office. The governor appoints a party loyalist to occupy that office. Boat rockers and reformers need not apply. No election is held, or the next election is delayed for months or years. Party loyalty is rewarded, reform and improvement thwarted and the voters have no say in the matter whatsoever. The anointed ones wait quietly and obsequiously in the shadows for their inevitable selection by the governor and the system, such as it is, continues.
A few attorneys, aware of the serious injustices within the administration of justice, have courageously challenged this good old boy system to give the voters a choice and to defend the principal that it is the voters who should choose their judges and district attorneys, not the governor.
In 2018, the Governor had already chosen a party loyalist to fill judicial vacancy for the Western Judicial Circuit Superior Court. The anointed one would resign her position as a state representative and be rewarded with the judgeship of our district. The attorney and reformer who stepped forward, to the shock of the Governor and power brokers, was Lisa Lott, now Judge Lisa Lott. A reformist candidate who, in an act of pure courage, challenged the system, forced an election to be held and won that election.
In early 2020, another courageous lawyer, former U.S. Rep. John Barrow, attempted to challenge the system by requiring an election to be held for a position on the highest court in the state, the Georgia Supreme Court. Unfortunately, he did not succeed. No election was held. The Governor appointed his anointed choice and the people of Georgia were deprived of a voice in selecting the occupant of that highest judicial office.
Now, once again, a courageous attorney, intent on important reforms of our criminal justice system, has stepped forward to challenge the good-old-boy system. To do so, Deborah Gonzalez had to sue Gov. Kemp, demanding that the constitutionally mandated election of the District Attorney for the Western Judicial Circuit be held. After four judicial decisions, culminating in a unanimous decision of the Georgia Supreme Court, the Secretary of State was ordered to put the position of District Attorney for the Western Judicial Circuit on the ballot so that the voters of Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties could decide for themselves who would be their District Attorney. No one in the office of the District Attorney supported or participated in that lawsuit. The “usual suspects” were sitting quietly waiting for the good-old-boy system to play out.
You do have an important choice to make. If you believe that it is the voters who should choose our District Attorney, support reforms of our system of justice to produce greater safety, more even-handed justice and more transparency, then you must vote for Deborah Gonzalez.