BY KRISTI REED
The race for the District Attorney of the Piedmont Judicial Circuit got a first hearing this week at a Monday night forum in Barrow County.
Incumbent Rick Bridgeman is facing challengers Donna Sikes and Brad Smith in the Republican primary next month. There are no Democratic challengers for the office. The circuit includes Barrow, Jackson and Banks counties.
Bridgeman, a prosecutor since 1995, was appointed as District Attorney by Governor Purdue after the resignation of Tim Madison.
Bridgeman said that during his short time in office, he and his staff have resolved a backlog of over 2,000 cases. According to Bridgeman, the rate of successful prosecutions has increased from 54 percent to 85 percent.
“We are now seeking justice on every case brought to the Piedmont Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office,” he said.
Bridgeman said he has been working with law enforcement agencies to see what can be done to better serve the public. Keeping repeat offenders from getting bond is another key issue for Bridgeman.
“We are going to serve you, the citizens of Barrow County,” he said. “I am devoted and committed to public service not self service.”
Sikes, a private practice attorney for the past 17 years, said she wants to see the district attorney’s office “run the way it should be.”
Sikes’ said her main priority would be to represent the citizens. She also vowed to make budget information for the office easily available online.
“You won’t have to worry about how your tax monies and public funds are being spent,” she said.
If elected, Sikes said she would work to establish a drug court to deal with non-violent drug users while prosecuting drug sellers to the fullest extent of the law.
Sikes said she would also work with law enforcement agencies to make sure they had the training needed to make arrests that would hold up in court.
“Criminals don’t need to get off on a technicality,” she said.
Citing her years of experience in private practice, Sikes distinguished her experience from that of the other candidates.
“I am the only one in this race that has never been trained or employed by Tim Madison and looked the other way at the corruption that went on in that office,” she said.
Smith has worked as a prosecutor for 12 years. Currently serving as an assistant district attorney, Smith said he has the experience and leadership to be the Piedmont District Attorney.
“I have dedicated my entire professional career to serving the people of Barrow, Banks and Jackson County as a prosecutor,” he said. “During this time, I have earned the reputation as a formidable, tough but fair trial attorney that has gained the respect of law enforcement, judges and my fellow attorneys.”
Smith said he has tried more murder cases than anyone else in the district attorney’s office during his tenure and has experience with multiple death penalty cases.
According to Smith, growth in Barrow County has led to increased crime that must be dealt with effectively.
“I want to enact policies that will anticipate and stay ahead of changing trends in crime,” he said.
Bridgeman, Sikes and Smith will participate in the Barrow Chamber of Commerce candidate forum scheduled for June 23 in Winder. The forum will be held at the Colleen O. Williams theatre at 6:30 p.m.
The candidates are also scheduled to speak at the next Barrow County Republican Party forum set for June 26 at Statham Elementary.