Some serious money is already being collected and spent by candidates in this year’s nonpartisan race to replace Cobb State Court Judge Toby Prodgers.
There are five candidates who have filed financial disclosure reports with the county to be the next Division One, Post Six judge in the State Court of Cobb County.
Prodgers, who has been a Cobb State Court judge since 1995, announced in September 2019 that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election after 25 years on the bench. He’s in the last year of his current four-year term.
Among the contenders to fill his seat are Cobb Magistrate Court Judge Kellie Hill, Marietta criminal defense attorney Katherine “Trina” Griffiths and Jason Marbutt, a senior assistant district attorney in the Cobb DA’s office.
The other candidates to file financial reports are David Willingham, a Marietta attorney and former prosecutor in the Cobb DA’s office, and Marietta criminal defense attorney Maziar Mazloom. He, too, spent years in the county district attorney and solicitor general’s offices.
At the end of December, when the last election reporting period closed, the five candidates had collectively raised over $55,000 and two had taken out over $200,000 in personal loans.
The candidate with the most money to play with was Marbutt, who received $22,450 in campaign contributions last year and personally loaned his own campaign $177,500.
At the start of this year he had just under $190,000 on hand, having spent around $11,500.
Marbutt, a former high school and elementary school teacher, disclosed $11,200 in contributions from family, $2,800 from Marietta legal firm Levine and Riedling, and $1,000 from the Leaders In Education Fund, which supports teachers to run for public office.
His nearest rival, as far as campaign contributions go, was Judge Hill, who raised $17,228 last year and another $1,700 worth of in-kind support, according to her report for the period ending Dec. 31, 2019.
Hill, a former lead trial attorney for the state with a long local career, had spent just over $1,000 on her campaign by the start of the year and had just over $16,000 on hand. She had no loans, debts or investments associated with her campaign at the time.
Hill’s notable donors included Cobb Juvenile Court Judge Amber Patterson, Cobb County Tax Commissioner Carla Jackson, Cobb Magistrate Court Judge Gerald Moore, and Cobb Juvenile Court Judge Wayne Grannis, who gave her a combined $1,450.
Griffiths, in criminal law since 1996 and a Cobb prosecutor for over a decade, raised $10,950 and spent just over $6,500, leaving around $4,400 on hand at the start of the year.
Like many of the other candidates, much of her contributions were given by attorneys and others in the legal system. Griffiths also wrote a personal check for $10,000 to her campaign, she stated in her last financial disclosure report.
Willingham was in the early stages of campaigning, based on his $5,050 in contributions in 2019. He took out $23,000 in loans and spent all of it, leaving him with the $5,050 on hand, his latest disclosure report shows.
One notable contribution to Willingham’s campaign was $500 from Friends of Bert Reeves, the lobby group for the Marietta Republican in the Georgia House.
Mazloom, who worked in Cobb as an assistant solicitor general and assistant district attorney, began his own local practice in 2004. He filed a campaign financial report for the end of 2019 which showed zero contributions, expenditures, loans, debts or investments, indicating his campaigning was yet to start in earnest.
There are 12 elected judges on the State Court of Cobb County bench, tasked with handling criminal misdemeanors, traffic cases and all but the most serious civil actions.
In 2020 the Cobb State Court has eight judge positions up for election, all with a four-year term.
According to the Cobb elections website, voting for general primary nonpartisan elections is scheduled for May 19. The registration deadline for those races is April 20.