Area attorneys W. Andrew Voigt and Assistant District Attorney Troy Cross are stepping forward for the chance to fill the seat of Columbia County Circuit Court Judge James Miller.
Miller announced Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2011.
Cross' goal before he attended law school was to become a prosecutor and focus on criminal law.
"I wanted to make life better for everyone," he said. "I wanted to prosecute criminals; I've been doing that for 12 years now."
Cross ran unsuccessfully in 2006 when Judge Alan White was elected to Branch 3.
"I've been thinking of running since - I was waiting for an empty seat," Cross said.
Cross has served as an assistant district attorney for Columbia County since 1999; his job is to prosecute most of the drunken driving cases in the county. He also prosecutes civil cases, including traffic and county ordinance and state tickets.
His strengths include his experience in the county court system and his background with law enforcement through his undergraduate degree, he said.
"I've been through most (types of cases) from an attorney's perspective," Cross said. "I think I could easily adapt to a judge's perspective."
With his experience as an assistant district attorney, Cross understands the day-to-day operations of the court house, he said.
Serving as judge is a next step in his career, Cross said.
"I think I have the most experience in the courtroom," Cross said. "I believe I could do the job and do the citizens of the county justice. ... I think I'd be fair and forthright to everyone."
W. Andrew Voigt
Voigt cites a long family tradition of civic duty and participation in local government.
A Portage native, Voigt has worked full time as a local attorney since he obtained his law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2000.
His practice focuses on municipal law - he has been the attorney for the city of Portage since 2002 - as well as representing children in criminal and other cases. He also has experience in other areas of law, including real estate, probate, estate planning, civil litigation and small claims.
"I've seen a little bit of the vast majority of the kinds of cases that are going to come before a circuit court in Columbia County," Voigt said.
As the municipal attorney for Portage, Voigt prosecutes traffic and ordinance citations in municipal court, attends Common Council meetings and assists the city with legal issues.
Voigt, in his final law school semester, worked as a clerk for the three Columbia County judges at the time - including the one he seeks to replace.
The experience left an impression.
"They were very conscientious to get the right answer under the law and applying the facts. That was both heartening to learn and something to strive for, for myself," Voigt said.
Serving as judge is a "next logical step" for him, Voigt said. He cares about the process of law and has an even temperament, he said.
"I think that will help me to be a better listener and do a better job of trying to make sure that I understand everybody's position," Voigt said.
Both men said they are prepared to cope with the outcome of Columbia County's budget crisis.
Both agree that cuts in positions - such as those proposed to cut the hours of judicial assistants and victim/witness coordinators - will slow the progress of cases through the court system.
"Any of the cuts to any of the parts of the justice system makes anyone's life more difficult," Cross said.
"I think the cuts that they have proposed do have a strong likelihood of pushing us back to a situation where it's hard or impossible to keep up with the volume of cases that exist," Voigt said.
The Branch 2 race starts Dec. 1. The spring primary election is Feb. 15, and the general election is April 5.