There will be one contested judicial race on the ballot this year in Haywood County.
Vying for a seat on the 30th Judicial District Court Bench are Republican Kaleb Wingate, of Haywood County, and Democrat Justin Greene, of Swain County.
This will be the first time Wingate, 31, has run for the office, while it will be the second time for Greene, 41, who ran about a decade ago.
While Greene was the only Democrat in the running, Wingate had to survive a primary against three other Republicans.
“I worked very hard in the primary,” Wingate said. “I had four opponents there. I worked really hard to be the Republican nominee. I’ve kept up the steam in the General Election traveling through all seven counties.”
Greene said that although a primary race brings with it a lot more work and dollars spent on campaigning, especially since the coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on public appearances during General Election season, he considers that primary to be an advantage.
Now, Greene said, the way he interacts with voters is largely via Zoom and other digital media.
“For sure I’ve done a lot more digital than I did 10 years ago,” he said. “It used to be you’d go to football games and parades and meetings. You’ve got to be a little more creative with how and when you meet people now.”
Greene and Wingate admitted that it’s been tough while also handling the normal caseloads they encounter through their practices and both said they have been working throughout the week to balance the two responsibilities.
“I’ve been meeting with clients on Fridays and Saturdays to prep for court,” Wingate said. “Balancing is the most challenging part.”
“You may have hearings every day in courts scheduled out of county,” Greene said.
Wingate and Greene both touted their experience, which for Wingate, has mostly come as an assistant district attorney.
“My experience as a prosecutor sets me apart from Mr. Greene,” he said. “As an assistant district attorney, you’re really immersed in criminal law.”
Greene, on the other hand, touted his 15 years of experience as an attorney, especially his work in the social services department and with juvenile cases. Both are frequently heard in district court.
“I’m in my 15th year doing this, and I’ve had a lot of experience doing this in every type of court a district court judge sees … I’ve been involved in hundreds of cases, which is thousands of hearings,” he said.
Greene said he doesn’t consider becoming a judge a political job and added that he doesn’t think the typical Republican or Democratic labels should be a factor in the race.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a judge even when I was younger. It’s a chance where you really get to make a difference in the courtroom. When you’re the judge, the buck stops with you.”
“To me, it should be a position where we elect the best and most qualified person for the job,” he added.
Wingate also said he wanted to appeal to voters on both sides of the aisle.
“If given this opportunity, I promise to work hard and follow the rule of law without bias or prejudice and make sure communities are protected, as well as the Constitutional and statutory rights of everyone that appears in front of me,” he said.
“I also want to thank family and friends and supporters throughout the district who are working hard to help me,” he added.