After 16 years as Columbia County's chief magistrate judge, David Huguenin said Tuesday he will not run for re-election.
And at least three candidates already are looking at filling the void on this year's ballots.
Judge Huguenin, who is holding a news conference today to formally make the announcement, said he wants to spend more time with his family and on his farm near Beaufort, S.C.
"I just made the decision the other day," said Judge Huguenin, 53. "It's a tough decision - 16 years."
He said he will continue working at the Martinez firm he used to share with Mike Annis before he was appointed to serve as Superior Court judge last year.
Judge Huguenin, who specializes in real estate law, first won the post in 1998 after running on the Democratic ballot and has since switched parties.
The caseload for the county's Magistrate Court has grown significantly in that time, he said.
"Initially, our civil jurisdiction was $2,500; now it's $15,000," Judge Huguenin said. "One thing we're especially proud of is we hear the vast majority of the domestic violence cases, and that's not something that we first did when we started."
Before the switch about six years ago, domestic violence cases were heard in Superior Court and often had to wait four or five months to be tried, Judge Huguenin said. Now, as part of the Magistrate Court, they are typically moved into counseling within weeks.
Judge Huguenin said he will endorse Associate Magistrate Judge Wade Padgett in the campaign to replace him.
Judge Padgett said he will make an announcement about his bid today after Judge Huguenin's noon news conference at the Columbia County Justice Center.
Facing Judge Padgett in the July 20 Republican primaries will be attorney Richard Ingram, who qualified for the race Tuesday.
Mr. Ingram said he has thought about running for the position for years but did not want to challenge Judge Huguenin out of respect.
"It was all predicated on him stepping out of his position," Mr. Ingram said.
And Hal Morris, who ran as a Democrat against Judge Huguenin in 1996, said he is still contemplating whether to run again.
Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.