There are four people who want the Columbia County Circuit Court judge’s seat formerly held by Alan White, and the field will be narrowed to two with a February primary.

The candidate slate is not the same as the list of those seeking an appointment to fill the remainder of White’s term after his September retirement.

Columbia County Assistant Corporation Counsel Krista Miller is not a candidate for judge, and Portage attorney Steve Sarbacker is on the February 20 primary ballot.

All four of the judicial candidates — Sarbacker, Brenda Yaskal, Troy Cross and Clifford Burdon — either work, or have worked, in the Columbia County district attorney’s office. Cross and Burdon are both current assistant district attorneys, as Yaskal was from 2006 until 2016, when she became assistant corporation counsel in Sauk County. Sarbacker was an assistant district attorney in Columbia County from 1998 to 2005, when he resigned.

A four-way judicial race is not unprecedented in Columbia County. With the 2011 retirement of Judge James Miller in Branch 2, four candidates — Cross, W. Andrew Voigt, Tim Henney and Mark Lawton — vied for the seat, with Voigt and Henney advancing in the primary and Voigt winning the election.

According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission website, Sarbacker turned in his candidacy documents — campaign registration statement, declaration of candidacy and nomination papers — on Tuesday, the deadline for filing. His ballot status is listed as “pending,” and the website indicates his “statement of economic interest” documents have not been filed as of Wednesday.

Cross registered his campaign Dec. 26, but turned in the last of the required candidacy documents Tuesday. Burdon declared his candidacy in September, filed most of his papers Dec. 7 and turned in his statement of economic interest Tuesday. Yaskal filed the last of her papers Dec. 22.

Eleven years ago, Sarbacker was a finalist for the Branch 3 judicial appointment that then-Gov. Jim Doyle eventually gave to White. The bench became open in August 2006 when Judge Richard Rehm resigned.

In September 2008, Sarbacker attempted an 11th-hour write-in campaign to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for district attorney. Jane Kohlwey, a Republican, was re-elected.

Burdon, Cross, Yaskal and Miller had applied for an appointment to fill the remaining months of White’s term following his September retirement. But Gov. Scott Walker decided not to appoint a judge, and left the bench vacant until the election.

A circuit court judge’s term of office is six years.

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