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This Election Is A Family Matter

There were few tears Tuesday night when Sarah Sweet-McKinnon lost her campaign to unseat a heavily favored incumbent judge in Reno County, Kan.

That's because the winner, Judge Steven Becker, who took 70 percent of the vote, is also her husband.

In an interview on The Early Show, Sweet-McKinnon acknowledged that she was disappointed by her showing, but quickly added, "Any disappointment I have is very much overshadowed by my pride in my husband, his career and his accomplishments."

Sweet- McKinnon launched her campaign as a way to shorten her commute and give her more time at home with her family and friends. She is a public defender now working in Wichita; Becker, who has been on the bench for 21 years, is the court's senior judge in their home county. Sweet-McKinnon wants to work closer to home and the only way she could do that is to unseat her husband.

In any other position, she would either appear in his courtroom as an attorney, or, if she went for another judgeship, be reporting to him because he is the senior judge. Both would be viewed as conflicts of interest.

"I guess I'm supposed to be doing what I am doing right now," Sweet-McKinnon said, "so I'll continue to drive back and forth to Wichita."

Married in 1994, the two met when Sweet-McKinnon appeared as a lawyer in Becker's courtroom. Once they became involved, she had to find another job to avoid appearing in his court. That's when she joined the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services in Pratt, Kan. - more than an hour away from her home - and later went on to the public defender's office in Wichita.

Becker has nothing but praise for his marriage partner and his opponent. "I think what she did was courageous," he said, "and I am so very proud of her and have all the respect in the world for her."