Paul Sullivan and William Managhan, two local attorneys, are facing off for the second time in five months to determine who will be Flathead County’s next justice of the peace.
Sullivan and Managhan previously faced off during the June primary election. Because the justice of the peace race is nonpartisan, and there were only two candidates in the primary, both Sullivan and Managhan continued on to the general election. Sullivan won the primary with 62 percent of the vote compared to Managhan’s 38 percent.
While the primary provided an early indication of Sullivan’s strength in the race, both candidates say it’s still anyone’s game, noting that general elections tend to have higher voter turnout, which could change the results.
“I’m not taking anything for granted because it’s still up to the voters,” Sullivan said. “But I’m hopeful that I will win.”
Sullivan grew up in Bigfork, went to the University of Montana in Missoula and later attended law school at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. After graduation, he caught “the first flight home” and started practicing law. Sullivan initially worked solo, but in 2010 he joined Measure, Sampsel, Sullivan & O’Brien in Kalispell. In 2011, he also started working as a substitute judge in Justice Court, Columbia Falls City Court and Kalispell Municipal Court.
Managhan was born in St. Ignatius and grew up in the Missoula area. After high school, he spent a few years as a welder before going to college and then attending the University of Montana School of Law. After graduation, Managhan worked as a clerk for the Montana Supreme Court. In 2001, he took a job at a small law firm in Kalispell before starting his own firm in 2003. Five years ago, Managhan decided to give back to the community and become a public defender in Kalispell.
Sullivan said his experience as a substitute judge sets him apart from his opponent, while Managhan said his long and varied career makes him the best candidate.
“It all boils down to experience, both in life and the legal system,” Managhan said.
Both candidates have said that drug addiction is one of the biggest issues facing the criminal justice system. Sullivan and Managhan applauded District Court Judge Heidi Ulbricht and her efforts for establishing a family treatment court, and they both hope that it will be expanded.
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