In an unusual election year, two judicial seats in the Santa Cruz County Superior Court are up for election June 8.

Five experienced and qualified individuals have put their names into the running for the open seats, and after interviewing all five, the Press-Banner Editorial Board has concluded that there can be no wrong choice. Our endorsement, however, goes to the two candidates we believe would best serve Santa Cruz County as judges.

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Philip Crawford is not your average candidate for judge. Much of his 40-year career has been spent working as an advocate with families and children. It’s still his passion, and if elected, he hopes to work solely on family and juvenile cases, an area that in today’s fractured society seems to be terribly important. We believe this is valuable, because if he is allowed to take an assignment in family court, it will free up more experienced judges to handle the criminal calendar, including the seeming increase in violent crime in the county due to gang activity.

Crawford maintains that judges can help with the gang problems that have reared their ugly head in Santa Cruz by helping the community organize. He said he would plan community meetings and has experience securing millions in grant funding — a task he could pursue for Santa Cruz as a judge.

Although Crawford has not spent much time working in the county, he’s lived here for decades, making him familiar with the area without any buddy-buddy relationships in the court system.

We believe his judgeship would bring a breath of fresh air to Santa Cruz, and his passion for helping families would pay dividends in our court system.

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Rebecca Connolly is a high-powered judicial candidate who could sit at the bench the next 20 years. She was president of Women Lawyers of Santa Cruz County and received the prestigious Roland Hall Award from the Santa Cruz Bar Association last year.

Connolly is fluent in Spanish, and her experience on federal cases gives her a broad perspective that could be valuable in our relatively small Santa Cruz courts.

She has done little work in criminal law, but her academic achievements show that the learning curve will not be too steep. She stresses that she would want every person in her courtroom to feel listened to before a ruling were made.

We believe Connolly’s energy and vision for the future, combined with her strong background in constitutional law, make her an ideal candidate for judge.

Running against Connolly is Steve Wright, a longtime Santa Cruz defense attorney. His fatherly demeanor would also serve the courts well, and he would surely treat everyone who entered the courtroom fairly. He has been a mentor to youth most of his adult life and he would continue to do so from the bench, a quality Connolly can’t duplicate.

However, for the long term, Connolly’s skill set and passion make her the right choice to bring a strong presence to the Santa Cruz courts.

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