The race is on

Two candidates vying for 14th Judicial District Attorney position

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Candidates at a glance

Name: Elizabeth Oldham

Age: 36

Residence: Grand Lake

Party affiliation: Republican

Position: chief deputy district attorney, 14th Judicial District, Grand County office

Legal experience: 10 years

Name: Tammy L. Stewart

Age: 44

Residence: Steamboat Springs

Party affiliation: Democrat

Position: assistant Moffat County Attorney and owner of Law Office of Tammy L. Stewart in Steamboat Springs.

Legal experience: 19 years

— The race is on to become the next 14th Judicial District Attorney covering Moffat, Routt and Grand counties.

Steamboat Springs resident and attorney Tammy L. Stewart, 44, a Republican, officially kicked off her campaign Monday at courthouses in the tri-county district.

The race now has two candidates from opposite sides of the aisle. Elizabeth Oldham, a Republican and the chief deputy district attorney in Grand County, announced her candidacy in late January.

Stewart, a former deputy district attorney in Routt County, is an assistant Moffat County Attorney and operates the Law Office of Tammy L. Stewart, LLC, in Steamboat Springs.

"I feel like I'm the most qualified, experienced person for the position," said Stewart, who also used the announcement to unveil her campaign platform.

She said she advocates increased community safety, improved relationships with law enforcement, alternative programs such as a teen court, "respect and courtesy to all," a District Attorney's advisory committee, a domestic violence fast-track program and active handling of the most serious cases.

"I think the District Attorney needs to be handling the most serious cases," she said. "They need to be the most experienced attorney" in the courtroom.

According to her resume, Stewart is a Colorado native, a 1986 graduate of the University of Colorado and a 1989 graduate of its law school.

She boasts 19 years total experience, including a six-year stint as public defender in San Bernardino County, Calif., and 12 years as a deputy district attorney in Alamosa, Morgan, Jefferson and Routt counties.

She currently handles child support enforcement for Moffat County and prosecutes some child abuse cases.

Stewart said she is better suited for prosecutorial work, but her experience as a defense attorney and prosecutor makes her a unique candidate for District Attorney.

"I think that makes me a very balanced person," she said, adding that her past as a defense attorney allows her to anticipate defense attorney moves while prosecuting cases.

Stewart, who worked for the District Attorney's office for two years, in 2005 and 2006, is critical of both the current administration and her opponent.

She described the office's attorney turnover as "extraordinary" and that past prosecutors left the office for reasons other than financial.

She said she also believes "there is a tendency to rush to judge, to file without enough information."

As District Attorney, the community would have a voice in crafting her office.

"The DA's office needs to reflect local values, and we need local input," she said.

Her experience makes her more qualified than Oldham, Stewart said, specifically citing Oldham's "six years of experience."

Oldham has been an attorney for 10 years, obtaining her license in 1997, and has been a prosecutor since 2001.

Oldham said she embraces the challenge of an opponent for public office.

"I wasn't surprised," said Oldham, a Grand Lake resident. "I always knew someone else could run.

"Having someone else running against me doesn't make me shy away. I'm excited about this opportunity."

She also responded to Stewart's criticism of her experience.

"Not only do I have experience as a prosecutor, I have experience running the office," she said.

Oldham is endorsed by two current district attorneys - her current and former bosses, 14th Judicial District Attorney Bonnie Roesink and Fifth Judicial District Attorney Mark Hurlbert.

"I totally and completely support Elizabeth," said Roesink, who is retiring at the end of her term.

"I really can't think of anyone who would be a better DA," said Hurlbert, who praised Oldham's trial work of prosecuting "first-degree murder cases on down."

"Her trial skills are incredible. In general, I would describe her as fair, but tough. She is unafraid to go to trial."

Stewart's campaign literature sums up her candidacy as "reason, experience and justice."

"Defendants can hire their own lawyers," a news release states. "Victims must make a decision at election as to who will represent the people of the state of Colorado at trial."

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 875-1791, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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