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Summit County: DA hopefuls face off on experience

Special to the DailyScott Turner

After 10 years in office and staring a term limit in the face, 5th Judicial District Attorney Mark Hurlbert isn’t running for the prosecutor’s office in November.

But he’s already becoming a player in the race for his job, as deputy DA and Republican hopeful Scott Turner tries to distance himself from his sometimes-unpopular predecessor and his opponent, Clear Creek defense attorney and Democrat Bruce Brown, looks to mesh them together.

In a runoff reminiscent of the 2008 presidential election, Turner’s campaign buzzword is experience; Brown’s is change.

“I’m getting very good feedback from voters in terms of explaining why I’m running and the need to be in touch for significant change,” Brown said. “I am running because I feel that the current DA’s office has been out of touch with the conscience of our community.”

During his term in office Hurlbert was criticized for issues ranging from his administrative policies to his track record prosecuting high-profile cases.

Turner, who has been a prosecutor in the district for five years, has separated himself from his boss.

“Working for Mark has been a great experience,” Turner said. “But I am not Mark Hurlbert, and I have disagreed with him on many things.”

The deputy DA is touting his nine years prosecuting cases as better preparation for the top job than Brown’s background in defense law.

“It really comes down to experience. (The voters) want to know who can take the DA’s office to the next level.” Turner said. “Everything (Brown) talks about, basically I’ve done, so do you want somebody who talks or somebody who acts?”

Brown called Turner’s stance on experience “hypocritical” coming from a defense attorney turned prosecutor.

But the two see eye-to-eye on some things: both say there’s no room for politics in the prosecutor’s office and both want to promote and increase restorative justice programs across the district.

Turner highlighted the need for mediation and diversion programs, while Brown is pushing softer penalties for young, first-time offenders.

The prosecutor’s office employs 30 people and operates on a $3 million budget.

The 5th Judicial District includes Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties.

Hurlbert will vacate the DA’s office in January after voters shut down a measure to extend the term limit to three terms.

Turner, a Wildernest resident originally from Kansas City, finished law school at the University of Missouri in 1989 and started his career in the Jackson County district attorney’s office. He later started a law practice, but would eventually move back over to the prosecution side, coming to Colorado to work in the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Glenwood Springs in 2005. He took a job with the prosecutor’s office in Summit County in 2007.

Brown, an attorney for 26 years, owns a private law practice in Idaho Springs. He served as the Clear Creek County coordinator for John Hickenlooper in his 2010 bid for governor. Brown ran for DA on the Democratic ticket in 2004 against Hurlbert and won three of the four counties, but lost Summit County by a significant margin that cost him the election.