Early voting is now underway for this November's general election, but a Lewisburg man is already challenging an incumbent for an office that won't be on the ballot until August 2014.
Lewisburg-based attorney Robert Dalton says he's a candidate for the office of public defender for the 17th Judicial District, which includes Bedford, Marshall, Lincoln and Moore counties. His campaign is to start early next year.
Donna Orr Hargrove of Lewisburg is the incumbent.
Hargrove is running for re-election, she said last week. She was elected to her first eight-year term in August 1998. Several calls and visits to her office, as well as an in-person request for information about her and her record as public defender, resulted in no reply.
As for why Dalton is describing himself as a candidate so early, he said, "I didn't think of it as early."
Candidate petitions can't be printed and made available until January 2014.
Dalton plans to start campaign efforts in January 2013, he said.
"We're going to try to do this right," Dalton said. "My primary focus has been to improve and raise the level of the bar in Marshall County and I think the most effective way to do that is through the office of the public defender..."
Dalton opened his law office in May 2011.
This will be his first time as a candidate for public office.
"I know nothing about politics," Dalton said. "All I know is criminal defense. The Constitution needs defenders to fight for it everyday."
He is willing to debate an opponent, saying, "I have no objection to discussing issues."