If there’s one thing court of common pleas judge opponents Ken Zuk and Victor Haddad can agree on, it’s the integrity of their opponent.
The two, who have expressed a mutual admiration, have pledged to run a positive campaign and followed through with it, focusing on their own qualities and experience to determine who will be the better man for the job.
The two boast a similar resume of experience, but Zuk said that his experience in the private sector will be a nod in his favor if he is elected to sit on the bench.
“Everything that Haddad has in his resume, I have,” said Zuk. “But then, on top of that, I have all of the experience of representing people. I’ve done it, he hasn’t. He’s a good guy, an honest person and a man of integrity, but he doesn’t have the same experience I have.”
Zuk, an Amelia attorney, said that he once sat on the bench of the municipal court, before leaving the position to raise a family. Haddad currently sits as an elected municipal judge, but is seeking to be elected to the seat in common pleas court that was created this year due to population growth in the county.
“I was a judge in the municipal court from 1987 to 1992,” said Zuk. “At that point, it was a part-time position and I really enjoyed being a judge. When they made it full time, I had kids to educate, so I decided not to run for it. Now, the kids are educated and I’ve always wanted to be a trial judge. With the new position, it’s the perfect opportunity. I think this is the right time for me to run.”
Haddad has served for seven years as a municipal judge, and prior to that, had a similar job background as Zuk. Haddad also served as an assistant prosecutor, from 1992-1996. Haddad said that he feels his purpose in life is to serve the public.
“I’ve been in public service most of my legal career,” said Haddad. “I feel that’s my niche. Public service, being able to make a difference in people’s lives, this job gives me that opportunity to resolve dispute, whether they are criminal or civil. That’s my way of giving back to my community.”
Haddad said that he is seeking to move to the court of common pleas because the move will be stimulating for his skills and his career. That personal growth, said Haddad, is one of the main reasons for seeking the new office.
“I’m personable, fair, and I think I’ve shown that I’m very level and solid in my judicial temperament,” said Haddad. “I have a lot of knowledge and skill and I’m experienced. I clearly believe that, if I didn’t think I could offer anything, I wouldn’t be interested. I think it’s real important to be in the trial level and experience what I’ve experienced to take things to the next level. I’m patient and listen to give people their fair shake. They may not agree with the result, I will hear them out.”
Zuk, on the other hand, has spent the time since he left the courts in 1992 as a litigator that, in his opinion, helps him to have a different experiential connection to judging.
“At the end of this year, I’ll have been in law for 34 years,” said Zuk. “I’ve been a successful litigator, and when I first started out I was an assistant prosecutor for just under three years, so I tried a lot of cases. I have a lot of experience representing people in all areas. I’ve done personal injury for both plaintive and defendant. I’ve done medical malpractice for both, property disputes, corporation issues, all different kinds of problems. I have a good reputation, people will tell you I’m a good attorney and people will tell you that, when I was judge, I was fair. I think I have everything necessary to be a common pleas judge.”
Haddad also said that reputation is important, and pointed at making fair decisions as a central quality in judging.
“I believe that I will continue, if elected, to work hard and guarantee everyone who comes before me a fair hearing,” said Haddad. “I pride myself in being fair and consistent. I do that keeping in mind, if there is a victim, what their feelings are. I want to hear what that person’s feelings are about the situation before I make a decision. I want to hear from the person who is most closely involved.”
Hence, the two have promised to focus on their skill and reputation instead of on smear tactics, although some monkey business can be fun. Haddad said that Zuk managed to bribe his son during the county fair to wear a “Zuk for Judge” campaign sticker.
“When I came out of court, he had (Zuk’s) sticker on his shirt,” said Haddad. “I looked at him and asked ‘what’s with this?’ Ken was there waiting for me, and my son said ‘Mr. Zuk promised me french fries at the fair.’ I said ‘fun’s over, get it off.’ It’s all in good fun. Running a campaign is tough, and you’ll hear criticism. You can respond in kind, or sit back and know that people who know you know you’re not that way. You have to take it. It’s tough to see or hear an ad that doesn’t say anything good about the candidate, but just talks bad about the opponent. We’re hoping to avoid that.”