Historic judge’s race puts three newcomers on bench

A monumental judge’s election to fill three 30th District Court seats in Western North Carolina has ended after a clean, tightly-contested election.

When the dust settled three new judges were seated — Donna Forga, Kristina Earwood and Roy Wijewickrama.

Forga’s win could have been the most suprising as she unseated Judge Danya Ledford Vanhook, who was appointed a little more than a year ago to replace the retiring Marlene Hyatt. At forums during the campaign Forga spoke of the lessons learned as a single mom working her way through college and law school and the influence of the judge’s she has worked with.

“I’m so looking forward to serving the people of this district,” Forga said after her win. “And I also want to say how impressed I was with the quality of the judicial candidates. It makes me proud to be one of them.”

“Honestly, this is my dream, what I’ve been working for. Just incredible,” said Forga.

With voter turnout very high, the closest race of the three was between David Sutton and Kristina Earwood. Earwood, a Sylva attorney, managed to narrowly beat out Sutton by less than 2,000 votes.

At a forum in October, Earwood talked about how important it was to treat everyone equally in the courtroom.

“It’s very important to treat those people with respect. It’s really important that when someone steps through the door of a courtroom, there is no color, there’s no race, there’s no economic line — justice is blind. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings. I do think it’s very important because of the impact we have on people’s lives,” Earwood said.

In the third race, Waynesville attorney Roy Wijewickrama bested fellow Waynesville attorney Steve Ellis.

In forums throughout the judge’s race, all the candidates spoke of how difficult it would be to replace the demeanor and courtroom presence of Hyatt and retiring judges Danny Davis and Steve Bryant. Davis and Bryant had a combined 50 years experience on the bench.

District Court judge races are non-partisan, which means the candidates are not affiliated with any political party.


District Court Judge (Vanhook seat)

Donna Forga    30,282

Danya Ledford Wanhook    22,364


District Court Judge (Bryant seat)

Kristina Earwood    27,032

David Sutton    25,159


District Court Judge (Davis seat)

Roy Wijewickrama    27,904

Stephen G. Ellis    23,864

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