Two of twelve superior court judge seats in San Luis Obispo County opened up in time for the recent California Primary Election.
While the final vote count is still being tallied, two candidates have emerged with strong leads.
Mike Frye ran against Paul Phillips for one seat, and as of earlier this week, had 67% of the vote. Erin Childs ran unopposed for the other spot on the bench.
County superior court judges are usually appointed by the state governor, but in this case, the choice went to a vote.
"When a sitting judge allows their term to expire, you have an open seat," Frye said. "That's what happened here."
Frye spent his career as a prosecutor before deciding to put in a bid for one of the open judge seats.
"This is something I've wanted to do for my entire career," Frye said of the position. "So I knew when the opportunity came, it was my time."
He was working in the Fresno County District Attorney's Office before moving up to the United States Attorney's Office. Eventually, Frye met San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow when the two were working on the same case.
That connection with Dow led Frye to the Central Coast, when Frye took a job in San Luis Obispo County.
Currently, he is head of the Public Integrity Unit for the DA's office in SLO County. His work has included prosecuting homicides and major fraud cases.
Like Frye, Erin Childs got her law career off the ground in Fresno.
Childs was a family law attorney for more than 13 years, where she spent three to five days a week in court, when she decided it was time for a career switch.
"About six years ago, I really had grown tired of the adversarial nature of going to court every day," Childs said. "I saw how toxic the adversarial court was on families and it was really hard."
Childs said she set her sights on being a judge, first becoming a court commissioner in Fresno County, before filling the role in San Luis Obispo County.
Five years later, another opportunity opened up: the chance to be a superior court judge.
While the idea of campaigning was out of her comfort zone, Childs says friends and colleagues helped convince her to run.
"And then I realized in February that I was running unopposed," Childs said.
She described what came next as "Campaign Lite," where she got to meet people she didn't know and encourage them to vote.
While the votes are still being counted, Frye has so far earned about two thirds of the votes. Childs ran unopposed.
Still, the candidates are not officially judges until they are sworn into their roles in January, unless Gov. Gavin Newsom appoints them to the role ahead of time.
Until then, both Frye and Childs say they are anticipating what's ahead.
"I'm passionate about families and kids, and I feel like from the bench, I can do a lot to help kids and help our families in our area and our community," Childs said.
"Whatever it is, [I hope that] people that come before me are heard," Frye said. "Now they may not like my ruling, but I want them to know that they were heard."
Childs, who lives in Arroyo Grande, is replacing retired Superior Court Judge Dodie Harman. Frye, who lives in Morro Bay, is set to fill Judge Linda Hursts's spot when she retires later this year.