We've been hard on current District Attorney Mark Hurlbert's office over the years, thanks to any number of foibles, follies and foul-ups. So it may come as something of a surprise that we're wholeheartedly endorsing Hurlbert's top deputy, Scott Turner, as the next 5th Judicial District Attorney.
First, we're being asked to vote for Turner, not Hurlbert. Many of us have worked for bosses whose actions we're sometimes hard-pressed to explain. We believe Turner when he said he had little or nothing to do with some of his boss's more cringe-worthy moments.
Turner wasn't even living in the district during Hurlbert's clumsy handling of the Kobe Bryant sexual-assault case early in his tenure as district attorney. And, Turner claims, he urged Hurlbert to take a harder approach in the case in which Martin Erzinger hit a bicyclist with his car and then drove off.
Color us a little skeptical on the latter claim. Still, Turner was the deputy, not the boss.
Turner has a solid track record as a prosecutor and has already been handling a good share of the administrative work in the four-county 5th Judicial District. He also knows, right this minute, intimate details about the office's caseload and no doubt has some firm ideas about who will stay, and go, after Hurlbert leaves office.
Turner strikes us as maybe less philosophical than action-oriented. He has a sharp, analytical mind, seemingly geared toward getting this job done as effectively as possible. And make no mistake, it's a big, hard job.
We were also impressed in an interview when the subject of the death penalty came up. That ultimate punishment is so rarely used in Colorado that it's almost a moot point - the state's death row has but three occupants. Still, Turner was unequivocal about the kinds of cases in which he'd seek that penalty.
With all that said, we also believe Turner's opponent, Bruce Brown, would do a credible job if elected. We have no doubt about his commitment to justice or his ability to pivot from defense to prosecution.
Here's where Brown's candidacy stumbles, though: While Turner is already involved in the day-to-day operations of an office with 33 people in four locations and lives in the heart of the district, Brown runs a one-man law practice at the far edge of the district.
It would take him a significant amount of time to understand the workings and people of the District Attorney's Office. That, almost inevitably, would mean delays in both mundane and complex cases.
We're also put off by a couple of radio ads running at the moment that attack "Scott Turner and the District Attorney's Office." Those ads attempt to tar Turner with the brush of Hurlbert's alleged failings.
That's a common practice in politics, of course, but attack ads have in the past tended to backfire on those who have used them in this county. Brown's willingness to abide by those attacks shows a certain amount of tone-deafness to political sensibilities in this part of the district.
Those ads will soon enough be forgotten, no matter which candidate wins Tuesday. Until then, though, we hope voters will be able to judge these candidates on their own merits. We believe Turner makes the best case for the job.
Vail Daily Editorial Board