Ann Harris wins Cobb Superior Court judgeship
by Hilary Butschek
July 23, 2014 04:00 AM | 4496 views | 4 4 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ann Harris, second from right, is seen through the window of The Local, a restaurant on Marietta Square on Tuesday night as she views results of her lead widening over opponent Juanita Stedman. Both women have been in a heated campaign since the May primary and locked horns on several occasions during debates until Tuesday’s runoff election. Joining Harris in front of the 42-inch screen are supporters from left: Chuck Burge, Ann Sprague and Randy Martinez.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Ann Harris, second from right, is seen through the window of The Local, a restaurant on Marietta Square on Tuesday night as she views results of her lead widening over opponent Juanita Stedman. Both women have been in a heated campaign since the May primary and locked horns on several occasions during debates until Tuesday’s runoff election. Joining Harris in front of the 42-inch screen are supporters from left: Chuck Burge, Ann Sprague and Randy Martinez.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — Ann Harris, a senior district attorney who has practiced law in Cobb Superior Court for 19 years, will be the next Cobb Superior Court judge, according to results from the Tuesday night primary runoff.

With all precincts reporting, Harris won the primary runoff with 30,993 votes or 62 percent, against Juanita Stedman, who received 19,260 votes, or 38 percent.

Harris will replace Judge Jim Bodiford, who will retire at the end of the year after five terms on the Cobb bench.

Harris said the strength of her campaign was the personal connections she made with voters.

“I have just tried to go out into the community where the voters are,” Harris said. “If there’s been an opportunity to meet with voters, I’ve been there.”

Harris said she was the underdog going into the race, and she was thankful to the voters for her majority win Tuesday.

“I’m overwhelmed by what appears to be the margin of victory. I am extremely grateful to the people of Cobb County for their support,” she said.

Voters supported her because they agreed with her message, Harris said.

“I have the experience of working to protect our community. Public safety is important to people in Cobb County,” Harris said.

Harris said she ran a successful grassroots campaign.

“This is a huge county full of a lot of voters, and it’s impossible to mount a good campaign without a lot of grassroots help,” she said.

Harris, who spent her evening at The Local restaurant just off Marietta Square, said the hours leading up to the result were stressful, but she was used to the feeling of anticipation.

“It’s like waiting on a jury verdict. You work as hard as you can. You think you put everything out there, and now you’re just waiting to see what the jury does with it,” she said. “I’m used to the feeling that as hard as you’ve worked, it’s beyond your control.”

Stedman, who has been a Juvenile Court judge in Cobb County and an assisting Cobb Superior Court judge for 13 years, said her campaign wasn’t without its challenges. One big challenge she faced was the personal attacks she said Harris made against her.

“Our opponent became absolutely personal and nasty and we kept our heads up high and did not do that,” Stedman said.

Stedman said the personal attacks against her reached a head the weekend before Election Day, when she said Harris sent out a flyer that said “Juanita Stedman is not qualified to protect the families of Cobb County.”

“That’s personal,and it’s nasty, and we do not do that,” Stedman said.

Stedman said the flyers claimed more than half of her verdicts in court had been overturned with appeals. Stedman said the figure Harris used was not accurate.

Harris said she sent the mailers because voters needed to know statistics about her opponent.

“The results in the courtroom that have been achieved by every candidate are extraordinarily relevant, and it’s not just how long you’ve been in court, it’s what you’ve done,” Harris said. “I just felt like it’s extremely relevant for the voters to know.”

Although she disputed the claims of the flyer, Stedman said the personal attacks were not detrimental to her campaign.

“It is not a challenge for me to stay honorable and to conduct a race with integrity and tact. I would do it again,” Stedman said.

Stedman said another challenge she faced from her opponent was financial backing. While Stedman spent much of her time raising money to campaign, she said Harris was able to spend that time in other ways because she relied on her own money.

“She’s spent a lot of her own money. (Harris) has bragged she self-funded her campaign and that could be helpful to her campaign. My money came from donations,” Stedman said.

Harris said she did put a lot of money into her campaign, but it has its benefits.

“Being self-funded means I took office and I’m not beholden to anybody,” Harris said.

Harris called Stedman “a worthy opponent, who had run a strong campaign.”

Harris said her No. 1 campaign priority was public safety, and “it begins with the cops and ends in the courtroom.” She said her experience with the court process is her biggest strength.

“I’ve brought that strength and experience in the Superior Court, where I have worked every day, every week, every year for 19 years,” Harris said. “My priority has been to secure justice with fairness and courage, and that’s not going to change on the bench.”

Harris said she wants to take time to thank her supporters in the next few days, especially her husband, Jim.

“(Jim) has been a blessing to the campaign. When I couldn’t be somewhere, he would appear there,” Harris said. “He has worked as hard as I have.”

Harris won 23,638 votes, or 41 percent, over Stedman, who had 18,334 votes, or 32 percent of the vote in the May 20 primary. Nathan Wade, an associate Municipal Court judge and partner at Wade & Bradley Law Firm, who received 16,166, or 28 percent of the primary vote, was knocked out of the race before the runoff.

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Ann Sprague
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July 23, 2014
It's regrettable that Judge Steadmon couldn't take a page from Jack Kingston and make a gracious concession speech, admitting that she was not only beaten, she was clobbered. I was with Ann Harris at several campaign opportunities, and I can honestly say I never heard her utter one word against her opponent. Instead she focused on what she believed in and her own work record. She and her husband, Jim, worked tirelessly 7 days a week, attending every type of event imaginable, in Cobb County and shaking thousands of hands, asking for votes. She also had a tremendous cadre of volunteers, like me, who believed in her and did all we could to urge people to vote for her. She personally visited my Smyrna civic club at least 3 times, whereas I never saw Juanita Steadmon. There's a lot to be said for good old-fashioned person-to-person contact, and that's how Ann Harris won and won handily. Maybe Judge Steadmon lashed out the way she did because she was embarrassed to be beaten so soundly, especially after getting several high-level endorsements?
anonymous
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July 23, 2014
Well written!!!
Thank you, AnnHarris
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July 27, 2014
Here, here, Ann Sprague. No one believes the negative things Juanita Stedman is saying.

I know Ann Harris and Juanita Stedman and like (liked) them both. I didn't work for either campaign or donate to either. Ann Harris has worked so hard all the approximate 19 years I've known her. She doesn't feel it's right to give anything but her best; I'll bet she's never been called a slackard, and her integrity has never been questioned. Cobb County won in this election. It's in Ann's inner core to always give her best, and I feel she's always going to try and make the right decision. Thank you, Ann, for offering yourself for this position.
Cobb Voter
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July 23, 2014
We didn't read any of the flyers, we went to each candidate's website and obtained information there.
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