Montezuma and Dolores county residents will have a choice in Novembers general election when it comes to district attorney candidates for the 22nd Judicial District.
Assistant District Attorney Andy Hughes will be a write-in candidate, opposing Republican nominee Will Furse.
Hughes, 57, said he knows he faces an uphill battle since voters will have to write in his name, while his opponents name will be listed on the election ballots.
The current assistant DA said he plans to go door to door to meet with potential voters to inform them there is a choice.
He also plans to use the media to let the public know that Furse is not running unopposed while explaining how to vote for him.
Furse defeated incumbent DA Russell Wasley in the Republican primary by 19 votes. A recount paid for by Wasley upheld the result. Hughes said the DAs office will be run differently if he is elected than how the office has been running under the direction of Wasley, whom Hughes considers a strong trial attorney.
I am not Russ Wasley. I am my own man, he said, adding he has twice the experience of the current DA. He also said that Wasley is a proven prosecutor who has done a lot of good for the community.
Hughes, who said he was asked to run by numerous people in the community following the Republican primary outcome, said he is a prosecutor, not a politician, and considers the DA to be a leader, willing to take the important crimes to trial. Hughes added that he has more than 80 jury trials to his credit and considers himself a warrior for justice.
Experience, he said, cannot be discounted, especially considering his opponent has none whatsoever, mentioning the learning curve for his opposition would be hard to overcome.
When you go into court in a major trial, its a war. In a major felony case, its like a Super Bowl, he said, explaining thats when the high-powered defense attorneys or hired guns appear.
Hughes, who has been a prosecutor for about 25 years, said he has a strong desire to help people and decided to use the law profession to accomplish this.
From 1984 to 1987, Hughes and a partner opened a law firm in Dayton, Ohio, where the two practiced all types of law, and in 1987 Hughes was offered the opportunity to become a prosecutor for the Dayton district attorneys office.
In 1993, Hughes left the Dayton office for Colorado to become a felony prosecutor in Alamosa. Two years later, he was contacted by then-DA George Buck about coming to work for him as a prosecutor in the 22nd Judicial District.
Hughes left Cortez in 1996 to go to work in the Durango DAs office where he dealt with juvenile and felony prosecution cases for eight years before returning to Cortez at the urging of then-DA Joe Olt who asked him to be his assistant district attorney.
Hughes was then offered a job in Towaoc as the federal prosecutor where he spent four years, before Wasley asked him to come back to be the assistant DA for the 22nd Judicial District.
In the past year, Hughes said he was able to convince two men to take a 20-year prison sentence rather than go to trial and risk being sent away for 32 years, which he thinks an inexperienced DA would not have been able to do.
Its serious business. We are dealing with peoples lives, he said. I feel this community wants a winner, and I am a winner. To me its a spiritual calling.
He also wondered how his opponent would handle a serious trial if one was to occur while still learning the job.
You cannot learn how to do a trial from a book, he said. He added it would be like installing a defensive back as the quarterback in the game of football who has never played on offense before.
He said if Furse becomes the new district attorney, the community can expect a lot of plea bargains that should have moved forward to trial because defense attorneys are not going to be lenient toward a prosecutor who is either inexperienced or ill prepared.
Furse responded to Hughes attacks on his inexperience.
(He) has been unable to offer any vision for the office of the DA. My campaign, on the other hand, offers a clear road map to productive prosecution and a proven ability to get things done, Furse said via email.