Cayton, Sutton tout their qualifications

Published 6:26 pm Sunday, September 26, 2010

Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This concludes coverage of a candidates forum held Wednesday by the Beaufort County Democratic Women.
With no other statesmanlike line of attack open to them, two opposing judicial candidates emphasized — and re-emphasized — their work-related qualifications last week during a candidates forum in Washington.
The candidates are Watsi Sutton and Darrell Cayton Jr., both Washington attorneys seeking election to the seat currently held by Sam Grimes, a retiring District Court judge.
In his opening statement, Cayton seized on the younger Sutton’s resumé, pointing out her less-lengthy tenure as a practicing attorney.
“I think the world of Watsi, and we have traveled some of the same places and heard each other speak,” he remarked. “And I would bet you before tonight she would have said, ‘Darrell’s going to talk about experience.’ Well, I’ve been practicing law since 1987, 23 years.”
He said he hadn’t heard Sutton mention that she graduated from law school in 2000.
“Watsi’s been practicing 10 years,” Cayton stated. “And she does a good job. … I’ve had my successful, District Court trial practice for twice the length of time that Watsi’s been practicing law overall.”
In response, Sutton said her more-varied background gives her an edge.
“I believe what tips the scale in my favor is I’ve had a broad and diverse practice,” she said.
Sutton evinced her time as an assistant district attorney.
“Therefore, when a criminal matter comes before the court, I’ve not only been a defense attorney, I’ve been a prosecutor as well,” she said.
Sutton said she headed up an area office of Legal Aid of North Carolina, “putting the law on the side of the poorest of the poor in this community.”
Sutton said she has represented clients in family and consumer cases.
“Yes, I did graduate from the University of North Carolina in the year 2000, but have had the opportunity to represent clients in an array of cases, giving me both a broad and a balanced perspective from which to be judged,” she added.
North Carolina’s Code of Judicial Conduct generally bars judicial candidates from saying how they would rule on matters that might come before them in court, leaving the illumination of experience as the safest course for would-be judges.
Sutton and Cayton are vying for office in the 2nd Judicial District, which encompasses Hyde, Martin, Tyrrell, Beaufort and Washington counties.
The forum, held on Wednesday night, was sponsored by the Beaufort County Democratic Women, a club affiliated with the Democratic Party.
The judicial seat Sutton and Cayton are trying for is nonpartisan.