In a scrabble for political lines, three candidates running for two town judge seats in Kent are campaigning to voters from three registered parties.
Republicans incumbent Kevin Douchkoff and Tim Curtiss, who were endorsed by the town Republican committee are seeking to take the Democratic line from Pamela Richardson and Richardson, who was endorsed by the town Democratic committee, is looking to swipe the Republican line from Douchkoff and Curtiss in Sep 12 primary. All three candidates are seeking the Independence line. Current town Judge Peter Collins is not running again this year.
Judicial candidates are at their core supposed to be nonpartisan, which means candidates can try to grab several different lines easier than if they were running for a town or state legislating body. Curtiss said when Richardson started to get Republican signatures to force a GOP primary ballot, he and Douchkoff decided to get Democratic signatures to get on the Democratic primary ballot
“The person that sits on the court is supposed to be neutral,” Richardson said. “So I really think a political party when running for judicial office is irrelevant.”
Although the United States has become incredibly polarizing between the two major parties, all three candidates said they never encountered any vitriolic comments from the voters registered with the opposite party.
Curtiss doesn’t believe many voters in Kent are aware of the judicial primary.
“Most of the people I talked to had no idea there was a primary,” Curtiss said. “Specifically a primary on all three lines.”
The three candidates all believe they offer something positive to Kent resident and the justice system.
Douchkoff has been a town judge for eight years. The last time he went for the Democratic line in a contested election was the first time he ran and actually secured the line.
During his tenure, Douchkoff said he’s created a community service program that allows young offenders with “extreme minor offenses” the chance to volunteer and repay their debt to society to avoid a criminal record for the rest of their lives.
Douchkoff is probably one of the busiest jurists in the county. He said he’s done between 300-500 arraignments for other towns in Putnam.
“I think from speaking to prosecutors and defense attorneys that I am a fair judge and that I take pride in what I do,” Douchkoff, who was a Kent police officer for 31 years, said. “I’ve got 39 years in the Town of Kent preserving law and justice.”
Attorney Tim Curtiss called the multiple primaries a “bizarre and unusual situation.”
Curtiss noted people don’t vote in local elections based on political party, but more so on the person. He stressed he has a wealth of experience to offer.
Retiring town Justice Collins asked Curtiss to run for his seat, citing he has all the qualifications to do the job effectively. Curtiss, who has been a town prosecutor and defense attorney, said he knows the Kent justice system well and is familiar with the personnel that work in the courtroom.
Richardson has been practicing law for more than 20 years representing individuals, corporations and municipalities. She was a municipal prosecutor for several years for Lower Hudson Valley towns.
She said her background gives her the ability to run a professional courtroom.
“It’s necessary the court be run in a professional, ethical, efficient and reasonable manner,” she said.