By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Two former colleagues in the Hill County Attorney's Office are facing each other in Tuesday's Democratic primary election.
Incumbent County Attorney Cyndee Peterson faces Havre attorney Dan Boucher, who last year unsuccessfully competed with her for the position when then County Attorney David Rice was selected as a state district judge
Havre lawyer Randy Randolph is running unopposed for the Republican nomination.
When the Hill County Commission selected Peterson in August, it said she better served the county's needs at the time.
"Both applicants could have served the county very well and should be proud of their abilities," Commissioner Doug Kaercher said at the time.
Boucher said Wednesday he was disappointed that the commission didn't select him. He said he thinks his experience and his understanding of the community make him better qualified for the position.
"I felt I could bring my experience to the office and be a benefit to the county," Boucher said.
Boucher has practiced law in Havre for 20 years.
A native of Circle, Peterson received her law degree in 1997. She worked as a deputy county attorney in Liberty County until 1999, when she became law clerk for state District Judge John Warner in Havre. She became a deputy county attorney under Rice in January 2001.
Peterson said her experience in the office makes her highly qualified.
"In my heart I am a prosecutor and I am a county attorney," Peterson said. "It is what I want to do with my legal career for the rest of my legal career."
Boucher worked as a deputy county attorney in 2002 and 2003 while maintaining his private practice. He said he left the County Attorney's Office because he didn't have time to maintain his practice while working for the county. If elected, he would phase out most of his private practice, he added.
Local law enforcement officers have not publically endorsed either candidate.
Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera said he contributed to both candidates.
"They're both excellent candidates," he said.
Peterson's campaign has attracted more campaign contributions. She raised nearly $4,000, including $750 of her own money, as of Friday. The only local lawyers who contributed to her campaign were her husband, Robert Peterson, and Rice's law clerk, Brian Bekker.
Boucher raised $1,660 as of last week, including his own contribution of $1,000. The only local lawyer who contributed to his campaign was his partner, Frank Altman.
Boucher is pushing his experience in his campaign.
"My legal experience goes far beyond my opponent's," he said in a recent interview.
Boucher noted that he has argued before the state Supreme Court and has handled cases involving criminal law, contract disputes, family matters, farm and ranch issues, and construction law. He said he has frequently been appointed as guardian of children and elderly people.
Boucher graduated from Hellgate High School in Missoula and received a bachelor's degree in economics and a law degree from the University of Montana in Missoula. He has practiced in Havre his entire career.
"It's been a very hands-on, direct kind of practice and I've gotten to know this community at every level," Boucher said.
Boucher also said he thinks he can improve the relationship the County Attorney's Office has with the community.
"I see a change in the relationship between the County Attorney's Office and this community in the last year. I don't believe that's been a positive change," said Boucher, who wouldn't elaborate.
Peterson received a bachelor's degree in arts and political science from the University of Montana in Missoula and a law degree from the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio.
She said her desire to be a prosecutor has caused her to pursue extensive training for the position. She has attended three national training programs for prosecutors, and has attended county attorney training at least twice a year since she started as a deputy county attorney, she said. She has attended other specialized training in areas like domestic violence, she added.
"Being a county attorney is specialized in some senses," Peterson said.
Her experience in the office and ability to organize and manage it, as well as interacting with the other departments and department heads in Hill County will also help her be effective if she is elected, Peterson said.