The generation gap is 22 years wide in the race for Russell County district attorney.
The incumbent, Ken Davis, just turned 69. His challenger, former assistant district attorney Jamie Graham, is 47.
Both are Phenix City natives. Davis grew up on 10th Avenue at 12th Street by Holland Creek, where as a child on the front porch he watched a film crew shoot part of the 1955 movie "The Phenix City Story," a dramatic scene in which the protagonist nearly beats to death a gangster after they tumble down the creek bank.
Graham, the son of city attorney James Graham, grew up on 40th Street off Summerville Road. He played baseball at Central High School and went to college on baseball scholarships before graduating from Troy University in 1994. He got his law degree from the Jones School of Law at Faulkner University in 1997, and came home to join his father's firm.
Never miss a local story.
When Graham was born here in 1968, Davis was working as a sales manager for the East Alabama Beverage Company that belonged to his wife's family. They married in 1967, two years after graduating from Central.
Davis served in the National Guard before graduating from Auburn University in 1975, then moved with his wife and 6-year-old son Ken Jr. to Birmingham to attend the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, where he graduated in 1978.
Then the family came home to Phenix City, where Davis joined then-District Attorney Bill Benton's staff.
He has served there since, becoming district attorney in 1983 after Benton retired.
"I think experience matters," Davis said last week, noting he's the longest-serving district attorney in the state, and has prosecuted the most murder cases.
Over his 32 years in office, he has established a battered women's shelter, a child advocacy center and a program to combat truancy, but he said his primary focus is the core mission of the office: prioritizing prosecutions to put away the people who most threaten public safety, and to protect the innocent, including those falsely accused of crimes.
"The greatest challenge is how to keep up with the case load," he said, noting the Alabama Legislature since 2008 has cut his funding by 60 percent, and now provides about the same money it did when he first joined the staff in 1978, about $300,000 of his annual budget of $900,000.
Yet the caseload now is eight or 10 times what it was back then, he said, with a notable escalation in violent crime over the years. Because of that, "you have to be judicious about whom you try," he said.
On this point the candidates agree: "Finances are going to be a big issue," said Graham, who worked in the district attorney's office from October 2004 until he resigned to launch his campaign in August 2015.
Graham said he wants to hire part-time prosecutors to work the lower courts that handle child support, traffic offenses and other misdemeanors, so the full-time staff can focus on felonies.
That would save money on employee benefits, he said.
The district attorney's office is in a "reactive" position right now and needs programs to prevent crime -- to go into the schools, sort out the students with worrisome conduct, identify and address their problems, he said.
With more youthful offenders getting involved in violent crime, authorities need programs to prevent those, he said, adding, "You don't know until you try."
Another issue is that some residents view law-enforcement officers as enemies who come into their neighborhoods only to make arrests, not to protect the public.
"They're taking a beating to a degree," said Graham, adding, "You can't change the perception unless you try."
Graham, who graduated from Central High School in 1986, is like Davis nearly a lifelong Phenix City resident, having lived in Montgomery only for four years as his father attended law school, he said.
Now he's a father, and an uncle with young nieces and nephews who live in Russell County, and he's intent on providing them a safe and nurturing environment to grow up in, he said.