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Staff File Photo By Matt Hamilton / Coty Wamp speaks during a recent district attorney debate.

When Coty Wamp begins speaking about her plans for the office of Hamilton County district attorney general, the ideas pour out of her almost faster than the ear can take them in.

If she wins the primary election in May and the general election for an eight-year term in August, perhaps some of the ideas won't be or can't be implemented as she envisions.

But maybe many of them can be, and maybe the district attorney general's office can be known once again for its ability to prosecute criminals and less for the drama inside the office.

To that end, we endorse her candidacy in the upcoming Republican primary.

We believe Neal Pinkston, the current office-holder, knows the law, is not a bad prosecutor and is not without ideas to improve the office.

But, confronted with the situation last year of having promoted his wife and hired his brother-in-law, he spun out an elaborate series of half-truths, made a series of moves that stayed just ahead of the law in order to keep the two in his office's employ and called the effort to look into the practices in his office "politically driven." And now, having been told by the state attorney general to remove his wife and brother-in-law from his payroll, he has kept them employed while trying to change the attorney general's mind.

Meanwhile, current and former employees of his office allege he presides over an office with a less than cordial work environment.

All of this presents a picture of a less than professional workplace in what should be one of the most professional and transparent in the county.

Wamp, who is counsel for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, believes the office can prosecute more criminals, can add prosecutors by repurposing funds in the office, and can be more effective by having the same prosecutors see cases through from Sessions to Criminal Court.

She also promises to locate a prosecutor at the Child Advocacy Center to prosecute more crimes against children, to dedicate an advocate to overdose deaths, to restart a regional gang task force, to "be on the same side as law enforcement" and to be more visible in the community.

At 33 years told, she refutes Pinkston's suggestion that she hasn't had enough experience by pointing out that longtime District Attorney General Gary Gerbitz was elected for the first time at age 33 in 1974.

Wamp, though young, has experience on both sides of the courtroom and administrative experience in her current role. She began her career in the Hamilton County Public Defender's office, then moved to work in Bradley County, where she was an assistant district attorney. In 2020, she beat out five applicants for the new job of counsel in the office of Sheriff Jim Hammond.

Over time, she has practiced everywhere from juvenile courts to the court of criminal appears. En route, she said she worked with "hundreds of indigent criminal defendants" while in the public defender's office, then argued seven jury trials in two years in Bradley County, including three homicides and the rape of a child.

When Wamp — who has been endorsed by two local police groups — is campaigning door to door, she says people have no idea what the district attorney general does, or even who it is.

When she is elected, she said, "they'll know who the DA is," she "will be fair and equitable in the way I treat everybody in this county," and she will "not struggle to make decisions" as she says is presently the case.

We do hope Wamp will find a way to keep the Cold Case Unit, which Pinkston resurrected and which she has vowed to eliminate. It has brought resolution to a number of families, has linked up with a Dallas office that will provide free genetic testing and has boosted the DA's office standing.

The DA says his opponent's ideas are "things that sound great as opposed to things that will never come to fruition," and that her ideas about being more visible may be dangerous because "there are ethical rules [about] what we can say publicly."

Nevertheless, we see Wamp as a breath of fresh air for the office, a transparent leader who will forge the best of new ideas with established, effective strategies.

"If you want the status quo," she has told debate audiences, "don't vote for me."

The winner of the primary race will face former one-term Hamilton County Commissioner John Allen Brooks in August.

We endorse Coty Wamp's election.

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