Q&A with John Kellner, candidate for 18th Judicial District Attorney

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Party: Republican

Residence: Greenwood Village

Campaign website: johnkellner.com

What makes you the best choice for this office? 

I have the experience and professional judgment to seek justice. Public safety requires someone with real experience in criminal court. I am a chief deputy district attorney supervising prosecutors in the 18th Judicial District. I've been Colorado's Prosecutor of the Year for successfully prosecuting murderers and gang violence. I was recognized by MADD for prosecuting repeat drunk drivers. My opponent has less than a year experience as a criminal prosecutor and has never successfully prosecuted a felony trial. I'm endorsed by current 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, current and former sheriffs and community leaders across the jurisdiction because of my experience and commitment to justice.   

If you're elected, what issue will be at the top of your agenda? 

Community safety is paramount. For offenders that commit serious crimes, there must be serious consequences to ensure public safety. But many cases fall on the lower end of the spectrum, and for first-time offenders, we have a robust juvenile and adult diversion programs. I helped start the Veterans Treatment Court, combining mental health and substance abuse treatment with community mentors to help struggling veterans. I will expand on this highly successful model. Real experience as a prosecutor is vital when deciding where on the spectrum a defendant's case falls to ensure justice and the best outcome for public safety.  

If you're elected, what must you accomplish in order for you to consider your term a success? 

Success as district attorney is about seeking justice in each individual case. It isn't measured by new programs or wins, but by people — victims who see a just resolution, and defendants who receive fair treatment and rehabilitation. Each case is personal to the victims and the defendants involved, and it needs to be personal to the prosecutors as well. I'll evaluate my term's success based on how we served our community on each individual case, and whether we achieved the best outcomes to make our communities a safer place to live.

If elected, how would you help the 18th Judicial District navigate pressures placed on the district by COVID-19?

These challenging times demand experience and leadership. That means knowing the processes well enough to find creative solutions to the challenges we see emerging every day. As a chief deputy district attorney who has served this community, I understand how to work with our courts and defense bar in this jurisdiction to accomplish that. I will also be realistic about the potentially crippling impact of the backlog of cases caused by COVID-19. I will focus on resolving cases that are less serious and ensure my team has the resources to focus on the taking truly violent and dangerous offenders to trial.

What changes would you implement once in office, if elected?

I helped start the Veterans Treatment Court and supported additional drug and mental health specialized courts with great success. I intend to expand that effort to address gang and youth violence. Community engagement is also a top priority. As we've seen in recent months, there is an important national and local conversation about law enforcement and how to best serve the community. Prosecutors need to be engaged in that conversation, too. We have an obligation to build public trust, hold community meetings to reach out to more citizens, and ensure we understand public safety needs throughout our extremely diverse district.

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