District Attorney Mike Bonfoey, who has been the top prosecutor for the seven western counties for 10 years, is not running for reelection.
Meanwhile, Assistant District Attorney Jim Moore, a Democrat from Waynesville, announced his plans to run for DA a couple of months ago. Moore had begun campaigning since back in the summer.
Welch, 36, and Moore, 52, have worked together as assistant prosecutors for eight years. They are both involved in trying a case this week against a Swain jailer accused of helping a man charged with murder escape from jail.
Welch said Moore was one of the first people she told of her plans to run, and he was not surprised. Welch believes it will be a cordial race.
“I am not running against him, I am running for the office,” Welch said.
Welch, who attended law school at UNC-Chapel Hill, is from Hendersonville. Upon graduating, she worked as an assistant district attorney in Hendersonville for two years. She got a cold call one day from Bonfoey asking her to come meet with him and she was offered a job. Welch was working as a district court prosecutor in Hendersonville, but making the move to the Bonfoey’s office would allow her to try higher level cases.
“He asked me where do you see yourself in 10 years, and I said somebody’s chief assistant DA or elected DA or a federal prosecutor,” said Welch, who has always had bigger career ambitions. “I am not good at sitting still and I never have been.”
Welch’s husband, Brian, is the attorney for the Macon County Sheriff’s Office. They do not have children.
Both Moore and Welch will have to run in a primary on their party’s ticket in May before facing off against each other in the general election next November. Whether additional candidates step forward to run in either party won’t be known for sure until the candidate sign-up period in February comes and goes.
Republican Party leaders are working behind the scenes to discourage any other Republican candidates from running against Welch in the primary.
Meanwhile, Attorney Bill Jones, who has a private practice in Waynesville, has dropped out of the DA race after initially announcing plans to run on the Democratic ticket a couple of months ago, leaving Moore as the only Democratic currently in the running.
To read a past article on Jim Moore’s candidate announcement, go to www.smokymountainnews.com and click on this story.