The anticipated rematch between Lisa Zavogiannis and Robert Newman for district attorney has been derailed by an ethics committee opinion which has prompted Newman to pull out of the race before it even started.
“The issues would be insurmountable,” Newman said in withdrawing his name from consideration.
At issue is Newman’s family relationship with General Sessions Judge Bill Locke. Their wives are sisters, making them in-laws.
“It’s no secret since we’ve been married since the 1970s,” Newman said, noting he requested an ethics committee opinion when he decided to seek the office.
The opinion said Newman would not be able to argue criminal cases before Locke, nor would any member of his staff due to their family relationship. The extent of the limitations surprised Newman, who expected his staff would be allowed to plea cases before Locke even if he couldn’t personally appear before the judge. The opinion, Newman admitted, left him with no option but to withdraw.
Once he had his ethics opinion, Newman said he called around to the members of the local bar to let them know he would not be running in case someone else wanted to run. Two candidates have stepped forward. Christopher Stanford and McMinnville city attorney Tim Pirtle have both qualified to run in August as independents.
The incumbent Zavogiannis will advance without opposition in the Democrat Primary in May.
It was eight years ago Zavogiannis edged Newman in the Democratic Primary before going ahead and beating incumbent Dale Potter in a landslide in August.
As for Newman’s courtroom conflict, Bill Locke will have to win his way back into office as Jean Brock has thrown her hat into the ring, qualifying to run for judge as an independent. Brock finished second to Locke in a special election two years ago to fill the unexpired term of Judge Larry Ross, who retired before completing his term.
Rounding out the local judiciary, Public Defender Dan Bryant will be taking on John Partin in May’s Democratic Primary. The winner of that vote will be public defender since no one else is running.
Circuit Court Judge Bart Stanley will face no opposition.
However, elsewhere in the courthouse, Circuit Court Clerk Bernie Morris will face her first-ever test since her inaugural election 20 years ago. Former deputy Ramsey Womack has qualified to run against her in the Democratic Primary in May. The winner will be circuit clerk.