Editor’s Note: The following is a series of questions and answers taken verbatim from a Lebanon Democrat questionnaire recently filled out and returned by each candidate in the Wilson County chancellor’s race. The Democrat will publish the responses from candidates in this and other races leading up to the Aug. 7 general election.
Gordon Aulgur challenged incumbent 15th Judicial District Chancellor C.K. Smith for the chancellor’s position in the Aug. 7 election.
Smith, 66, worked as a city and juvenile judge before he was elected chancellor. He opened his law practice in Hartsville in 1972 and was elected Trousdale County executive in 1980.
Smith was one of eight brothers born and raised in Trousdale County. He left home when he was 9 years old and lived with foster parents. He is the only member of his family to graduate high school, which he did in 1966.
He graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 1970 with a degree in political science and received his law degree from University of Tennessee Law School in 1972.
Smith has been married to his wife, Elizabeth Delaine Freeman Smith, for 11 years. The couple has three children, C.K. Smith Jr., Kayla Courtney and Justin Ryan Smith, and three stepchildren, Justin Davis, Winston Davis and McClain Davis. They have two grandchildren, Anna Grace Davis and Carter Cannon.
Aulgur works for the Brewer, Krause, Brooks, Chastain and Burrow Law Firm. After receiving his law degree in 1999 from Washington University in St. Louis, he worked as a clerk for Circuit Judge Don R. Ash in the 16th Judicial District for a year. He said Washington University is the 19th-ranked law school in the U.S., according to U.S. News and World Report. He received a bachelor degree in economics from Monmouth College in 1996.
He is married to Jill Aulgur, and he couple has two sons, Alex and Jake Aulgur.
What prompted you to seek office? Was it a personal initiative or did others encourage you?
Smith: Initially it was personal. In 1990 when I ran, I had always wanted to be a judge. I felt like I had the necessary legal experience and common sense that would allow me to render fair and impartial decisions while treating all litigants, witnesses and attorneys with respect.
Aulgur: I believe in the importance of public service. Since judicial elections happen only once every eight years, this election is my best opportunity to serve the people of the 15th Judicial District. My family, friends and colleagues all encouraged me to run and bring conservative values and judicial restraint to the 15th Judicial District.
It will be one of my greatest honors, if I am allowed to represent the people of the 15th Judicial District as their chancellor.
What are the most important issues in your race, and how do you plan to address them?
Smith: Basically there are no issues. I will continue giving everyone a fair and impartial hearing.
Aulgur: As a lifelong conservative Republican, I am running to bring conservative values and judicial restraint to the 15th Judicial District. What this means is that, if I am elected, I solemnly swear that I will not legislate from the bench, I will enforce the Constitution as written, I will be prepared to hear all cases on my docket and I will fairly and impartially apply the law to all persons in court before me, regardless of their race, religion, creed or affiliations.
What would you say to voters opposed to your running for office to convince them you are the most qualified?
Smith: I have more than 40 years of experience in handling civil, non-criminal cases, such as probate, conservatorships, divorces, adoptions, restraining orders, contract disputes, property line disputes, child custody, child support, etc. From my understanding, my opponent has very little, if any, experience in these areas.
Aulgur: I believe the judiciary should represent the values of the district it serves. I am the only candidate running for chancellor who is willing to plainly state my judicial philosophy and values to the voters of this district. This district supports conservative values, and these are the values I will bring to the bench. I am pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-Second Amendment and pro-10th Amendment.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents do not?
Smith: I have more than 40 years of legal experience. I was born and raised in the 15th Judicial District, lived in the 15th Judicial District all my life, worked in practically every line of work that my constituents have worked, including farming, factories, assembly lines, roofing, carpenter’s helper, laborer, lawyer, juvenile judge, city judge, county executive and chancellor.
Aulgur: Unlike my opponent, I am a lifelong conservative Republican, and I will bring conservative values and judicial restraint to the 15th Judicial District. My opponent does not qualify as a Republican under the state’s bylaws, and in the last two elections in which he has voted, he has pulled a Democrat ballot. Further, I will not legislate from the bench. I will apply the law as written. I will bring the values and judicial temperament this district deserves.
How is your experience – or lack of experience – a plus or minus for the position you are seeking?
Smith: My experience is a plus because I do not have to do as much preparatory work to get ready for trial. As a result, I can provide a more speedy hearing, which saves the litigant attorney fee expenses and allows witnesses to return to their normal, daily activities quicker. It makes me more equipped to read the credibility of witnesses. It makes me more familiar with the lawyers, giving me the advantage of knowing which ones I can trust.
Aulgur: For the last 15 years, I have represented numerous clients across our great state. I have been in front of numerous judges from state to federal courts. I have also developed a subspecialty in appellate work, arguing a significant number of cases in front of the Tennessee Supreme Court. I believe this experience has provided me with valuable lessons on judicial temperament and restraint. I know, from my experience, that a good judge is a one who weighs the evidence fairly and bases his rulings on the written letter of the law.