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My decision to vote for Jeff Langton was made in April using the “anybody but” s rategy that many Americans are using in the presidential election. Some are voting for “anybody but Trump;” others choosing “anybody but Hillary.”

For personal reasons, my support was firmly behind Langton because he was anybody but his opponent. Only having been a resident of the Bitterroot Valley for four years, my familiarity with Langton’s history was non-existent as recently as June when I affixed my “Langton for Judge” sign to my fence. Contrary to a paranoid conspiracy theory, I didn’t know him personally at all.

In the interest of being an informed voter, I began researching my candidate.

With feigned outrage, his opponent delights in spewing a well-rehearsed narrative about a past DUI conviction as if it were breaking news, though the DUI occurred over a decade ago. Michael Jackson was on trial, the Abu Ghraib scandal dominated the news and Jennifer Aniston’s husband, Brad Pitt, was getting a little too cozy with Angelina Jolie. While the nation debated about Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube and George W. Bush was starting his second term, Jeff Langton made a mistake.

Addressing the court 11 years and two Popes ago, Jeff Langton took full responsibility for his actions. He didn’t blame someone else, nor deny his actions. He faced the situation head-on and was proactive in ensuring that similar issues wouldn’t happen again.

That is the epitome of integrity. Good character isn’t about being infallible. There’s no such thing as a flawless person and there’s a distinct difference between those who take responsibility for their actions and those who consistently shift the blame to others. Raise your hand if you have a past alcohol-related incident that you regret or have driven under the influence of alcohol after misjudging your level of intoxication. While I implore you never to do that again, I sit here with my hand in the air.

Now, imagine that you were in a courtroom before a judge. Would you want your fate decided by someone with a history of denying personal wrongdoing, a habit of filing lawsuits against everyone who addresses his poor conduct, and repeatedly allows his ego to supersede his own best interest? Or would you rather plead your case to a well-educated, level-headed, clearly qualified judge with 23 years experience? I choose the latter. Conversely, a wolf in sheep’s clothing with a reputation of utter incompetence does not belong on the bench anywhere.

This election, my vote will be cast against bullying, against using false information to attack an opponent’s child, against misusing litigation to silence young voters and against the notion that the 1 out of 6 people who were sexually assaulted as a child are less credible than others.

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Alternately, my vote will be cast for a candidate who’s an authentic person; for a man with the patience to endure ruthless character assassination without retaliating. Named “Citizen of the Year” by the Missoula Family Violence Council in 2012, I’m passionately for victim advocacy and adamantly against victim blaming. My vote will be cast for a UM graduate who helped bring CASA to the Bitterroot and was honored as “Judge of the Year” by that same organization in 2007 for his handling of child abuse cases.

I’m casting my vote for a lifelong Bitterroot Valley resident who understands the challenges of ranchers, irrigators and families in this valley. I’m voting for Jeff Langton for District Court Judge, no longer only because of whom he’s not; but for the man that he is, and strongly urge you to do the same.

–Stacy Coulter