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Deputy D.A. Smith seeks judge job

Saying he wants to offer an alternative to judges appointed by Gov. John Kitzhaber, Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Allan Smith confirmed Sunday that he'll run for the county Circuit Court judge's post now held by Lorenzo Mejia.

Smith, 44, of Medford, filed Friday for the district one, position one seat, according to the Oregon Secretary of State's Office.

I thought it was time Jackson County voters got to choose a judge, said Smith, noting that the last five local judges, including Mejia, have been Kitzhaber appointees.

Smith, a deputy district attorney for seven years, said he hoped to offer a different perspective from judges with backgrounds as criminal defense attorneys.

I've worked for victims of crimes, not just criminals, said Smith, who was a prosecutor for the Jackson County Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Mejia, who was sworn into the position in June, said Smith's claims raised concerns about his impartiality.

He's kind of saying he's going to represent the prosecutor's office, said Mejia, 48, of Medford.

Mejia said targeting Kitzhaber appointees doesn't address issues of personal experience and capability.

If he has something to say about how I've done my job, I'd like to hear it, Mejia said.

Smith said he offers a broad range of real-world experience. Before becoming a lawyer, Smith said he was a Navy fighter pilot, a manager for Chrysler Corp. and a small business owner.

Mejia, a former public defender, was a trial attorney for 14 years. He said he hopes to stay on the high road in the weeks before the November general election. But he charged that Smith supporters have begun spreading rumors that his rulings are tinged with racism.

I've heard that they say I'm letting the Mexican criminals go, and that's not true, Mejia said. I hope it doesn't come to that crap.

Smith said he didn't know who was spreading such rumors.

Race never enters into it, when it's me, he said. It never entered my mind. It was never a concern to me.

Smith plans to announce formally his candidacy at 10 a.m. Tuesday on the steps of the Jackson County Justice Building in Medford. He said he'll be joined by State Rep. Rob Patridge, R-Medford, and others.

Reach reporter JoNel Aleccia at 776-4465, or e-mail