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Staff file photo / John Allen Brooks, waiting for the polling results in 2014 when he was still a Hamilton County Commissioner.

One of the hottest political races this primary season is for Hamilton County district attorney, who will serve for the next eight years. Unless you've lived in a cave over the last year, you know that incumbent DA Neal Pinkston has come under scrutiny for marrying one of his employees — his chief of staff Melydia Clewell — and then hiring her brother, Kerry Clewell.

So? You might say love is love, right? And, yes, it is. No one begrudges love and happiness.

But there is the matter of Pinkston keeping it secret, then misleading county commissioners about who paid his family members — the county or the state — switching them back and forth between payrolls, depending on who was howling the loudest: county commissioners or Tennessee senators and the state comptroller.

Not least, there also is the matter of state law. When the Tennessee Comptroller's Office in February found Pinkston had violated the state's Nepotism Act (one of many state laws Pinkston was elected to uphold), our top prosecutor just thumbed his nose at the ruling and put his two relatives on leave. Paid leave.

Even after Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III wrote Pinkston agreeing with the findings of the comptroller's office, Pinkston kept them there — vacationing on our tax dimes.

And can we say double down? On April 1, Pinkston told the Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board there is nothing he would do differently about the unfolding situation.

Suffice to say we will not endorse him.

Nor do we have to. Fortunately, Pinkston has viable opposition on both our Democratic and our Republican ballots.

Republican challenger, Coty Wamp, 33, also wants the Pinkston's seat. Wamp is a former Hamilton County assistant public defender and a former Bradley County assistant district attorney. She currently is the general counsel for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department.

Democratic challenger John Allen Brooks, 68, also wants Pinkston's seat. Brooks, a longtime Hamilton County attorney and former county commissioner, is unopposed on the Democratic ballot and will face the Republican nominee in the August general election.

"I decided to run because this office needs a dose of professionalism. Everybody needs to be treated fairly," he said, noting he recently was called to represent a defendant who'd been awaiting trial for five years. Let that sink in. Awaiting trial for five years.

Brooks says assistant DAs should be trained better, and that responsibility falls on the elected DA. Cases should move forward. Trial dates should be real. Preliminary hearings should be real trials where the same assistant DA who will handle them in Criminal Court also handles them in Sessions and Juvenile courts.

Wamp sings from the same song book, and both she and Brooks say emphasis should be put on violent crime and fentanyl cases, rather than cold cases and marijuana cases — which not even the state deems provable anymore.

In this primary, if you're pulling a Republican ballot, vote Wamp. We look forward to a spirited campaign between her and Brooks.

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