Steven Buschman said he was visiting his parents at St. Joseph's Cemetery on Mother's Day when he finally made up his mind: he was going to run for Auburn City Court Judge.
A senior partner at law firm of WHMB P.C. in Auburn, Buschman said he had toyed with the idea of becoming a city court judge in the past, but with Judge Michael McKeon at the helm since 1999, it had always seemed hypothetical. Then, in May, McKeon announced his retirement, and suddenly Buschman's thought of filling that seat became much more concrete.
"It's something I had thought about in the abstract, but I had my practice here and it's doing well so I hadn't really thought it all the way through," he said.
But after a family meeting and a visit to the cemetery, Buschman said he drafted a group text to his eight brothers and sisters: "I'm in."
Meanwhile, another local attorney had announced he was in the race as well.
Following McKeon's announcement in May, David Thurston, of Thurston Law Office, P.C., issued a statement that he would be running for city court judge. As the appointed part-time city court judge, he said, the full-time position seemed like a "natural fit."
In 2014, Auburn City Council appointed Thurston as the assistant judge in Auburn City Court. At the time, Thurston had taken over for Judge Thomas Shamon, who retired.
Since then, Thurston said, he has presided over city court at least two days a week, and while he has dealt with some criminal matters, he has primarily handled civil cases, including zoning and housing code violations.
"We're obviously a very busy court, handling thousands and thousands of cases each year," he said. "Each day's a little different, so (Judge McKeon and I) are kind of both involved in just about every type of case."
And when Thurston learned that McKeon would not be seeking re-election, the Auburn native said he didn't hesitate to enter the race.
You have free articles remaining.
"I've found it to be a very rewarding way of serving the community," Thurston said. "This is my home, so it's important to me to try to do what I can and use the experience that I have to be able to give back to the extent that I can."
Thurston was later endorsed by the Cayuga County Democratic Committee, as well as Auburn Police Local 195. He is seeking to run on the Democratic line, but also has the Working Families party line locked up after getting its backing to pass ballot petitions.
A lifelong Democrat, Buschman is also seeking the support of the Democratic Party and will force a primary in September. However, should he lose the primary, he said he would also run on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines, as he has received the Republican and Conservative Parties' endorsements and secured the required number of party member signatures during the petition process.
"I'm not trying to upset the apple cart ... I'm just throwing my hat in the ring," he said. "Everyone should have a voice. I'm doing it for all parties because I believe at this local level the name and the qualifications and the person are much more important than that party designation next to that person's name. ... This is about people. It's not about politics for me."
Born and bred Auburnians, Buschman and Thurston have worked and lived in the city for the past 20-plus years.
After graduating from Auburn High School in 1989, Buschman earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from SUNY Oswego. He then went to the University of Akron in Ohio for law school. He is 47 years old and has two sons, Andre, 14, and Ernesto, 10.
Thurston also graduated from Auburn High School and earned a degree in economics from Binghamton University. He then went to law school at Syracuse University, and has worked at his father's practice on Genesee Street since 2005. He is 40 years old and he and his wife, Stephanie, have two children, Leah, 5, and Ben, 10 months.
"When I'm presiding, I hope people expect somebody who's going to be fair and prepared and understanding of what the positions are and what the facts of each case are," Thurston said. "Everybody wants a judge that they can respect and have trust and faith in. ... You're not just asking for people's votes. It's an important position and you're really asking people to put a lot of faith and trust in you."
Buschman added, "Win, lose or draw on the Democratic primary, I'm going to November. I think what city court does is extremely important. People that are in city court, they're you're neighbors. ... It's very important to have somebody that has the ability to balance rehabilitation versus punishment, and you have to be able to analyze that based not only on the law but life experience in the community. "