After working as colleagues in the county prosecutor’s office for over a decade, Joyce Dudley and Joshua Lynn will face off in Tuesday’s county election for the position of district attorney.
The race marks the first time two prosecutors from the same office have run for the county’s top legal post. The candidates are contending to fill the seat of former District Attorney Christie Stanley, who passed away in April after a long battle with cancer.
Both Dudley and Lynn are well recognized in the Santa Barbara legal community and have worked on high-profile gang, drug and murder cases. Lynn — a chief trial deputy with 14 years of experience at the district attorney’s office — was the lead attorney in the trial of Jesse James Hollywood, who was found guilty of ordering the murder of a teenager in Santa Barbara.
Lynn also served as acting district attorney for 109 days after Stanley took a leave of absence last year and Dudley — a senior deputy district attorney and 20-year veteran of the office — has been named Deputy District Attorney of the Year three times.
The candidates said they want to address a number of similar local issues that include gang violence and detainment of intoxicated youths in Isla Vista.
As district attorney, Dudley says she would pursue construction of an I.V. “sober center” to hold intoxicated locals in lieu of transporting them to county jail. Dudley, a UCSB alumna, said a center would offer first-time offenders an alternative to having an alcohol violation on their criminal record.
“I started working with this idea for a sobering center back when Doreen Farr was running for Supervisor,” Dudley said. “I was very excited about a concept with that. I started talking and we kept hitting walls on funding for that. Even though it is not cost effective, I am convinced it is the best thing for the students.”
Lynn also supports construction of an I.V. sobering center and said he would also address gang violence throughout the county.
“The first thing we have to do is allocate our resources to it adequately. We need to put more people in juvenile court,” Lynn said. “The second prong of the approach, which is just as important, is that we reach into the schools.”
Dudley has drawn the support of local law enforcement groups such as Santa Barbara Police Officer’s Association. Charles McChesney, president of the group’s political action committee, said Dudley is determined yet empathetic.
“She goes after the toughest cases and these cases require a strong number of compassion for the victim and a strong hand against the suspect or defendant of the trial,” McChesney said.
While Dudley’s supporters have pointed to her history as a prosecutor, Lynn’s proponents say his administrative experience makes him the better candidate. Former District Attorney Tom Sneddon said he chose to endorse Lynn because of his leadership experience.
“Josh is just far superior in those qualities needed to be not only a fine attorney, but a fine administrator,” Sneddon said. “All of the people who have been in the administrative position in the office are all supporting Josh.”
While Dudley and Lynn have similar political goals, the campaign has been marked by heated rhetoric, beginning when Stanley took a leave of absence last year and appointed Lynn as acting district attorney in her place. Dudley criticized the decision and said an incumbent should not appoint a candidate to the office he is seeking.
Furthermore, both sides have accused the other of inappropriate behavior — one of Lynn’s campaign Web sites accuses Dudley of courtroom misconduct while opponents of Lynn have questioned his temper, citing a dispute he once had outside the courtroom with a local defense attorney after the man allegedly insulted a victim’s family.
Because both candidates are from the same office, Lynn said political tension has seeped into the workplace.
“There has been some uncertainty in the office and the office has been divided between the people endorsing my opponent Dudley and the people who have chosen to endorse me,” Lynn said.
Despite the growing discord between the two candidates, former Santa Barbara District Attorney Stanley Roden said it is natural for people with such strong viewpoints to take the election personally.
“Of course they are passionate about their beliefs,” Roden said. “They are supposed to be engaged passionately because they care.”