Zimmer, Youngblood, Louie, McKnight: our votes for Primary

Editorial

For nearly a decade the state of California has been fighting a losing battle against violent crime, a trend many attribute to the series of state initiatives that have reduced jail time, sentencing guidelines and whole classes of felonies — all of which have pushed recidivists back onto the streets and left stewards of public safety with few resources to help rehabilitate them.

But in this year’s primary election on June 5, Kern County voters have an opportunity to select officials who will lead, through example or advocacy, the endeavor to uphold the law and keep our communities safe.

Decades ago, when our state was facing a similar crisis, Kern County helped lead the fight for reforms that prioritized victim safety. No one is more qualified to lead the modern charge than District Attorney Candidate Cynthia Zimmer. For 34 years she has worked in the D.A.’s office, spending the last 12 supervising (and prosecuting alongside) the unit that deals with our most violent offenders. Zimmer has exactly the kind of integrity, competency, passion and focus to not only keep our county as safe as possible, but also to proactively articulate to our state leaders how to create policies that restore peacekeeping tools to law enforcement and criminal justice.

Sheriff Donny Youngblood, after two relatively quiet terms in office, has had a turbulent last four years. He has been called into question for his controversial leaked footage addressing use of force and his polarizing statements bucking state policies on legalized marijuana and sanctuary city status. Devastating revenue losses in the county left his department understaffed and demoralized. But Youngblood has somehow managed to retain the respect and support of his fellow elected officials — even after spending the last few years haggling over resources with many of them. While his unpopular decision to close the Ridgecrest jail may be a hurdle for him to overcome with IWV voters, we still believe he has the best chance of protecting our county against a maelstrom of fiscal, bureaucratic and political challenges that lie ahead. As unpleasant as this campaign trail has been, it may serve as a valuable reminder to him of our expectations.

Judicial seats rarely come before voters, and on this ballot we have two.

For Kern County Superior Court Judge No. 10, Chad Louie is certainly the most qualified. Although his opponent has been far more successful in raising funds and endorsements, Louie has garnered more support from his professional peers. More importantly, he has spent more than 12 years trying all manner of cases while his counterpart has never worked a single jury trial. The most compelling reason to select him, though, comes from his recent service on the Kern County Planning Commission. In 2015 he was among those who traveled to the Indian Wells Valley to hear residents’ concerns about zoning and land-use changes. Louie demonstrated that he is an attentive listener, thoughtful in his responses and protective of private property rights. These qualities, along with his demonstrated integrity in the profession, are what we look for in a judge.

For Kern County Superior Court Judge No. 14, we endorse Cole McKnight. While the sitting judge he is challenging has committed decades of his life to service from the bench (with only a few objectionable actions), we believe that McKnight — who has prosecuted some of the most difficult cases in recent history — has gained from that experience a unique insight into criminal and gang law that will serve our county well. Although Ridgecrest continues to enjoy an existence unencumbered by entrenched gang elements, that issue is still the No. 1 threat to public safety in Kern. Although judges have the delicate charge of hearing cases without broader context, we still believe that the role of our Superior Courts make up an important component, along with our D.A. and sheriff, in the administration of justice. McKnight should have a place on that team.

See our Politics section for our comprehensive election profiles: http://www.news-ridgecrest.com/news/category.pl?id=4

Story First Published: 2018-05-25