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BY ELLEN BILTZ
Newcomer Tony Spencer knocked 30-year incumbent Harvey Latney out of his Caroline County commonwealth's attorney's seat yesterday as 60 percent of voters picked the candidate whose slogan was "It's time for a change."
Spencer, who was a prosecutor in Richmond and recently moved to the county said, "The first thing I did was I hugged my wife and I kissed my wife and she started crying with tears of joy."
Spencer was the only candidate to defeat an incumbent commonwealth's attorney in a local race.
In Westmoreland and Culpeper counties incumbents picked up the majority of votes.
In Westmoreland, incumbent Commonwealth's Attorney Dean J. Atkins carried all six county precincts to beat John Leino 2,811-1,623.
In Culpeper, incumbent Gary Close captured more than 63 percent of the vote over challenger Kevin Smith to win a fifth term.
In the Caroline race, Spencer criticized Latney throughout the campaign for being not only a part-time commonwealth's attorney, but for being almost impossible to get hold of.
Spencer made campaign promises that he will be a full-time prosecutor and will return phone calls. He said last night that he plans on keeping those promises.
"I am going to work really hard because I've told people in this county the things I'm going to do and I just can't imagine walking down the street and seeing those people and having them be disappointed," he said.
Latney, who has been in office since 1977 has been criticized for being easy on criminals in the courtroom, but defended himself throughout the campaign saying the office had always been run professionally.
He did not immediately return calls last night after election results were released.
Spencer said he's ready to start making changes.
"I am looking forward to working with the law enforcement in Caroline County," he said. "I'm going to be available to them at least one evening a week and I'll have office hours from 8 to 12 Saturday morning for them to come in and chat if they want," he said last night after his victory.
Though Spencer has a few months before he takes over, he said he'd be ready to start this week and he hopes for an easy transition despite the campaign battle.
"I think [Latney] is a professional and he will work on making this transition smooth," Spencer said.Ellen Biltz: 540/374-5424