The race for Jackson County District Attorney pits two experienced prosecutors against a lawyer and former legislator. All three are qualified, but we think Rob Patridge is the best choice to lead one of the busiest DA's offices in the state.

The race for Jackson County District Attorney pits two experienced prosecutors against a lawyer and former legislator. All three are qualified, but we think Rob Patridge is the best choice to lead one of the busiest DA's offices in the state.

The three candidates are vying for the job being vacated by Mark Huddleston, who is retiring after 20 years as district attorney. He joined the office in 1980.

Patridge is a former Medford City Council member and state representative who worked as a deputy district attorney for three years in the 1990s. After that, he was general counsel for Pacific Retirement Services, parent company of the Rogue Valley Manor, and now works as district director for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden.

Patridge has the support of several former police officials, including Sheriff Mike Winters, retired Medford Police Chief Randy Schoen and Commissioner and former sheriff C.W. Smith. He says the relations between the DA's office and law enforcement are strained and pledges to improve them.

Beth Heckert, the office's chief deputy district attorney, is Huddleston's personal choice to lead the office. She has been on the DA's staff for 23 years, joining immediately after law school.

Of the three, Heckert has the most experience as a prosecutor. She has handled more than 1,000 felony cases, taking more than 100 of them to trial and has filled in for Huddleston in his absence.

Deputy District Attorney David Hoppe has been with the DA's office for 11 years. He previously worked as a deputy district attorney in Klamath County.

In addition to trying some high-profile murder cases, Hoppe has specialized in child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault cases for about 10 years. He is clearly committed to that work and has received statewide recognition for his efforts in prosecuting child abuse cases.

Both Heckert and Hoppe say that while there's room for change, the DA's office is functioning well, with a high conviction rate. But Patridge says the office needs a culture change and that the DA needs to take a higher profile role in the community and the state and be an advocate both for the office and for crime victims.

Patridge is criticized by some for his limited experience as a prosecutor. That's true, but he brings a record of leadership in many arenas, including the Oregon Legislature, where he gained respect for his willingness to reach across the aisle. That approach earned him the endorsement of a former colleague, Democratic State Sen. Alan Bates, as well as former Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer.

The job of district attorney is as much about leadership as about prosecuting, and Patridge has convinced us that he will build partnerships across the criminal justice system as well as with the community at large. We think he can be the leader the District Attorney's Office will need as it takes on a job that stands to get only more difficult in the years to come.