Republican Circuit Judge candidate withdraws from race

Payton Edmiston, Republican candidate for Jackson County Circuit Judge announced last week that he was withdrawing his candidacy against incumbent Democrat Jackson County Circuit Judge John Graham.
A lawsuit filed recently by the former head of the Jackson County Republican party challenged whether Edmiston had enough years of practice as required by Alabama law to run for Circuit Judge. According to the law, a candidate must practice law for seven years to qualify. The law does not specify if this is day-for-day or simply year-for-year.

Edmiston has released the following statement:
“I decided that I was going to run for Circuit Judge late last year and started making plans to qualify. The first thing I did was research the Alabama Code to see what was needed to qualify. The code section could be read several ways, so I reached out for clarification regarding my qualifications.

I initially reached out to local Republican attorneys in our area and quickly learned that none of them had any interest in being a Circuit Court Judge. I felt, if there was going to be a contested election, to give the people of Jackson County a choice, it was up to me to qualify.

I then reached out to the Secretary of State, who is involved in the election process. I went to Montgomery and had a conversation with staff members and the Secretary. I was told that they understood my question but could not ultimately give me an answer. Next, I met with the staff at the Administrative Office of Courts in Montgomery and asked for clarification on the same qualifying issue. Again, I was told that the issue had never been decided by a court and that their office could not answer my question. I called the Judiciary Inquiry Committee for an opinion but was told that since I was not a judge, they could not issue an opinion on my qualifying question. Finally, I did a thorough search of attorney general opinions and could not find an opinion on point that would answer my question.

So, with all of this groundwork, I ultimately qualified with the uncertainty that there might be a contest. Shortly after qualifying, I was challenged by the previous Jackson County Republican President. However, she withdrew her challenge the day I was to appear in Birmingham.

This election would’ve been the first Jackson County Circuit Judge election where a Democratic office holder was challenged by a Republican. Graham lost an early election to another Democrat some years ago. Later, he was appointed Circuit Judge when another judge retired. Since then, no Republican has qualified to run.

After previously withdrawing her contest to my qualification, the same person has now challenged my qualifications by filing a lawsuit. Ultimately, after a number of phone calls and conversations with attorneys from across our state, I have decided to withdraw my candidacy. Graham will take office again, having never won a contested election. I chose this avenue because I do not want there to be a distraction to our state GOP.

I believe that the people of Jackson County deserve to have a choice, and a spirited discussion regarding our elections in Jackson County. There should never be a mindset that an office holder is there for life.

I look forward to continuing to build a thriving practice as well as continuing my volunteer work throughout our county. There will be another election, and I look forward to being a part of that process. I would like to thank Jackson County and my family and friends for their support throughout this process. I was a steadfast Republican yesterday, I am today, and I will be tomorrow.”

Judge Graham said, “My campaign continues until election day in November. However, unless something significant changes, I will no longer accept campaign contributions, because that would not be the right thing to do.”

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