LIBERTY — Gov. Steve Beshear finally got three names to choose from in selecting a replacement for former Casey Circuit Judge James Weddle last week, but it’s not clear if an appointment will be made before the November election.
The judicial nominating committee that serves the 29th Judicial District on Friday forwarded to the governor two names that will be on the ballot on Nov. 6 — Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Wright and Columbia attorney Judy Vance — along with Liberty attorney Jerry Foster, to be considered as a replacement for Weddle, who died in April.
If the governor fails to appoint anyone, the task falls to Chief Justice John Minton, who would be unlikely to put someone in the judge’s chair right before the people vote to fill the position.
“We really don’t know what’s going to happen. We could hear something this week, or he might not make an appointment at all,” Vance said Tuesday.
Both Vance and Wright said they would prefer Beshear act quickly, and both said they would like the appointment, though Wright said, “I don’t know that it’s practical for him to do it so close to the election.”
Foster, who is not on the ballot, said today he is not interested in the appointment. His name was added to the list to make three candidates for the governor to choose from as required by law.
Because of the possibility of a gubernatorial appointment coming so close to the election, Wright, who lives in Casey County, said there is some confusion among voters in the district, which is comprised of Casey and Adair counties. “Right now, I think we need to educate voters that there is an election coming up,” he said.
Both Wright and Vance are Republicans, though the race is non-partisan. Adair County has about 2,000 more registered voters than Casey County, but both candidates said they have enough name recognition in their opponent’s home turf to make that differential less of a factor.
Wright, 38, has twice been elected commonwealth’s attorney from the from the district and prosecutes cases at the judicial centers in Columbia and Liberty. His father is Casey Judge-Executive Ronald Wright.
Vance, 35, said she is well-known to Casey voters. She ran unsuccessfully for district judge in 2006, losing to another Columbia attorney, Michael Loy. She also worked four years as an assistant prosecutor under Wright and served for a year as Judge Weddle’s law clerk, plus has represented several Casey County residents in her private law practice, she said.
“I’m encouraged by the feedback I’m receiving in both counties,” she said.
Neither candidate wanted to discuss details of their campaign strategies, but both said they plan on speaking more to voters as the election draws closer.
It’s not likely to become a bitterly contested race.
“Judy and I are friends,” Wright said. “I can’t imagine either one of us saying anything negative.”
The winner in November will serve the remainder of Weddle’s term and face reelection for a full eight-year term in 2014.