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The Primary Numbers: Clerk of Courts…

The open seat for the Hampden County Clerk of Courts has generated a lot of buzz and excitement among four great and highly qualified candidates.  This office is incredibly specific, although the range, breadth and power of the office is up for some debate.

All of the candidates bring something.  Springfield at-large Councilor Thomas Ashe brings both governmental and public administrative experience.  Ludlow Attorney John DaCruz brings a lengthy tenure of legal practice and years of interaction and experience with the organs of the judicial system.  Springfield Attorney Laura Gentile knows the office, knows how it works and where it needs improvement.  Linda Stec DiSanti, a legal administrator from Chicopee, has run law offices and managed legal personnel.

And yet, this endorsement cannot be like the others.  This race was decidedly civil, if passionate.  At some point, whether an outside force or not has poisoned the well.  It has made this race less than it could have been.  Because these actions offend us so, we will not relate them here.  However, it leaves us with little choice.

The only candidate we know with certainty is not responsible for this turn is Thomas Ashe and therefore he is the one we endorse.

Thomas Ashe (WMassP&I)

Those who have read this blog know that Ashe has never been our favorite councilor and , but he has not been our least favorite either.  We have criticized answers of his at the debates, but in the course of this campaign, we have gotten to know him much better and feel comfortable that he would do the job well.

However, let us call a spade a spade.  We know Ashe has been helped tremendously by the friends he has made in a decade of elected office and years more of public service.  However, an independent consideration of that service leaves us confident the office will be in good hands.

At the same time, we also feel that in this particular circumstance, with so many good candidates, we feel we owe our readers a bit more.  So allow us to make it easy for you if you decline our advice.

If you want an individual with political experience and a solid history in the criminal side of the justice system: Thomas Ashe.

If you want an attorney who has practiced in the court system and has served in public office: John DaCruz

If you want an individual who is currently an assistant clerk: Laura Gentile.

If you want somebody who has made a career of managing legal offices and makes a point of bringing that office into the community as she has done in other aspects of life: Linda Stec DiSanti

We would note that we have concluded that legal practice can be helpful it does not appear necessary.  The job is not one of legal application, interpretation or counsel.

Indeed, whomever the winner is should suck up their pride and call together his one-time rivals and work to find what the office needs to make it better.  This may be naïve, but we think it is only appropriate for such an esoteric office.

While we would not expect any Clerk to pursue this, it may also be time for this office to be depoliticized.  There is no good reason for this office to be elected.  Sherriff, District Attorney, maybe even Registrar of Deeds, need direct responsiveness to the people.  But the managers of the Court system, which is unelected in Massachusetts, do not need to be.  The Courts ultimately answer the Supreme Judicial Court, the Legislature and the Governor.  To have an office such as this, with relatively little autonomy be an elected one does nothing for the people, the courts or those who work in the office, elected and unelected alike.