LAWRENCEVILLE -- Next week, two local women will have their dreams of becoming a judge come true.
After crowded nonpartisan races in July, the field has been whittled down to two women each in campaigns for seats on the Superior and State Court benches.
Tuesday's runoff features a contest between Kathy Schrader and Tracey Mason Blasi for the Superior Court and between Emily Brantley and Pam Britt for the State Court.
The four lawyers have made a point to stay neutral on political issues, adding that they would follow the law and not legislate from the bench. Instead, they have worked to differentiate themselves in terms of experience.Superior Court campaignIn the Superior Court race, family law attorney Schrader came out with more than twice the votes of her nearest competitor in the July 31 balloting.
But because she failed to receive more than 50 percent of the tally, she is headed to the runoff against Blasi, a lifelong Gwinnettian with deep family roots.
Schrader says she should be the final pick, since she has experience as a judge for the cities of Duluth and Sugar Hill.
Plus, she has rooted her law practice in family issues, like divorce, custody and adoption, which take up the majority of the Superior Court bench calendar.
"(The court) is the battleground for the future of families," Schrader said at a recent forum. "I am a seasoned general on that battlefield."
Over the decades, Blasi has become a well-known attorney specializing in land use issues and takes great pride in finding solutions palatable to the community even while representing developers in zoning cases. She also said she spends a lot of time on tax issues and real estate transactions.
"I feel like I am the only candidate who fights for taxpayers," she said.
Also spending a lot of time on mediation in her law practice, Blasi said the method could save a lot of the court's time and money if used effectively. And she wants to set up a mental health court to deal with the underlying issues that sometimes lead to crime.
"I have the judicial temperament for the job," she said.State Court benchIn the July standings, Brantley and Britt turned out fairly evenly matched at just over 25 percent of the vote, with Brantley getting the slight edge in the State Court race.
Both have pushed hard in the last three weeks of campaigning, telling stories about small-town girls with big dreams to one day become lawyers.
Brantley once held a position at a prestigious downtown Atlanta law firm, but left it to "hang a shingle" in Gwinnett so she could be more available for her disabled daughter.
Britt worked in the corporate world for 20 years to put herself through law school before she set up practice in her hometown of Grayson.
The two tout different strengths, with Britt building experience in criminal matters and Brantley working on both sides of civil lawsuits.
"You want a trial attorney," she said. "I want to give back. ... Everybody has a right to justice."
Britt has faced many challenges in the race, including defending herself after being called a "liberal Democrat" for voting in one Democrat primary and accusations of sign stealing, which she denies, that led to a Judicial Qualifications Commission filing.
But she said she has made a point to reach out to diverse groups in Gwinnett.
Judges represent all the people in the community," she said. "I went into private practice to help people. That's what I've done for 15 years."