For Great Bend attorney Steve Johnson, being a district judge was a natural evolution in the legal profession. Johnson defeated fellow Republican Robert Anderson of Ellinwood in Tuesday’s 20th Judicial District judge primary.
The 20th Judicial District covers Barton, Ellsworth, Rice, Russell and Stafford counties. Johnson won Barton County by 3,228 votes to 1,483, and the district by a margin of 63 to 37 percent (the final numbers were not available as of press time).
The chief judge for the 20th is Mike Keeley of Great Bend, who ran unopposed in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Johnson joins Ron Svaty of Ellsworth as a district judge. Svaty did not face an election.
“This is just another part of practicing law,” Johnson said. “It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time.”
He ran once before 16 years ago and lost. “I was just waiting for an opportunity to run again.”
Johnson didn’t want to run against a sitting judge. So, when Hannelore Kitts announced she would retire, he decided to file.
“I just want to do a good job,” continuing a long history of quality judiciary in the county, he said Tuesday night.
“It is defined by state law what a judge does,” he said. However, how they interact with attorneys and how quickly they render their decisions is in their hands.
Johnson wants to make sure all lawyers get their say and wants to give each case the attention it needs. But, he also wants to be timely in delivering his opinions.
A native of Gove County, Johnson taught high school industrial arts for a year before getting married and attending law school at Washburn University in Topeka. He moved to Great Bend after graduation and has practiced here ever since.
“I look forward to appearing in front of Judge Johnson,” Anderson said. He had called his rival Tuesday night and congratulated him.
The attorney said there is a silver lining to the outcome. He has for years worked with his oldest son Donald. In the near future, his youngest son Robert Jr. will join the firm.
“This was my first run at a political office,” he said. “I’m glad to get back to just practicing law.”