Longtime Cullman attorney Champ Crocker is announcing today that he will seek the Republican nomination to become Cullman’s next district attorney, an office currently held by 16-year incumbent Republican Wilson Blaylock.
Crocker will introduce the local GOP to his candidacy campaign as part of today’s breakfast meeting of the Cullman County Republican Party. Held at the Cullman Elks Lodge, the breakfast begins at 8 a.m.
Speaking Friday with The Times, Crocker said his campaign will be an affirmative one; that he’s not seeking the office in opposition to other available candidates, but in the hope of bringing his own qualifications and experience to bear in prosecuting crimes before the state’s 32nd Judicial Circuit.
“I am not running ‘against’ anyone, but to serve the citizens of Cullman County,” said Crocker. “The office of district attorney does not belong to any individual — it belongs to the people.”
In announcing his campaign, Crocker said that public service has always provided the motivating impetus for his community involvement — whether as part of his two-decade legal career, or his volunteer service in a diversity of other roles.
“I have spent my adult life after college — the past 20 years — working for the citizens of Cullman County as a full-time practicing attorney, while also serving as an assistant attorney general, municipal court judge, and law enforcement training instructor,” he said. “There is nothing greater a public servant can do than to help people, which I have done through my church, as a volunteer firefighter, as a youth sports coach, and as a member of the Cullman County Industrial Development Authority.”
The district attorney’s role in helping people, said Crocker, means keeping the focus squarely on the victims of crime, and of advocating for justice in their interest.
“The district attorney has one client — the State of Alabama. But crime victims are the face of the State of Alabama, who deserve priority, acknowledgement, and justice,” he explained to The Times.
“On day one, I will establish a Victim’s Advisory Council so that victims are given a seat at the table in my administration. In order to improve public safety, we must focus our efforts on removing career criminals from society. That is why I will create a Career Criminal Prosecution Unit, a team of experienced prosecutors, investigators, and staff who focus solely on sending the worst of the worst to prison.”
Crocker also pledged to maintain an open channel of communication with the public if he’s elected to the office.
“Another issue is transparency,” he said in his announcement. “Access to elected officials should not be hard. I will have an open-door policy to meet with citizens and attend community meetings and events.”
The district attorney’s office represents the prosecution component of a larger enforcement system intended to deliver justice on behalf of crime victims. In a judicial system beset with budget constraints, political incentives, and heightened federal scrutiny, it often jostles to achieve that goal with other parts of that same system — including law enforcement, the judges who try cases and sentence the convicted, and the prisons where they serve time.
Crocker said that he aims to integrate the goals of the district attorney’s office with those of the other moving parts of the judicial system, from police and deputies to Cullman’s district and circuit judges, so that all of its many members can more effectively pull in the same direction.
“Relationships matter,” he told The Times, reflecting on the challenges other members of the enforcement system face. “I have represented a number of law enforcement officers and agencies in my law practice and have taught law enforcement training seminars for deputies, police, and reserve officers for several years.
“I am concerned about the morale of our law enforcement officers because they are doing everything they can do to keep this community safe. I have been on multiple ride-alongs with deputies and have seen firsthand what they encounter on a daily basis — traffic stops, responding to domestic incidents, serving warrants, and so on. I’m running so that they have a DA who shares their vision.
“I was fortunate to work alongside our judges and court personnel as president of the local bar association in 2020-21,” he added. “The credit belongs more to them than me, but working together through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, we trained lawyers on how to use Zoom for virtual court hearings, and we raised the bar for professionalism by implementing a code of professional conduct for our local lawyers.”
Public scrutiny accompanies the holding of any elected office, and Crocker said he is fully committed to shouldering all of the public’s input if he is elected as the 32nd Judicial Circuit’s next DA.
“My family and I made this decision for me to run after several months of prayer, thought, and talking with the citizens of this county,” he said in his announcement. “I’m running because we need a conservative, full-time DA to serve the people who live and work in this community. I’m running because I want my two children to grow up in a safe community here like I did. I’m running because I am concerned when the system rewards lawbreakers with free bail.”
The best reform for Alabama’s bail system, whose practices have been criticized and even subjected to lawsuit in recent years, is to adhere to the law as it originally was intended, Crocker told The Times.
“I oppose free bail,” he explained. “The State of Alabama has a bail schedule written into law. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to bail — just follow the law. That is why I believe offenders who commit crime after crime, and those fail to appear in court, should not be allowed to sign themselves out of jail.”
The Republican primary election will be held on May 24, 2022.
This story was been updated to say that Wilson Blaylock has been District Attorney for 16 years.