The Freedom Fighter?

James "Smokie" Phillips is running for constable -- and running from his past

Thanks to Phillips's prosecution, he sees himself as part of a bigger tradition. "Dr. King was jailed. Jesse Jackson was jailed. Nelson Mandela was jailed," he says. "Maybe that's an important step on the road to fight for equality, justice and fairness."

It wasn't the way he'd planned it. He'd always been a good kid; in his only year of college, he played in the marching band. He got into law enforcement because he liked people, not because he had plans to shake up the system.

"I would rather have just kept my job, stayed at the sheriff's office, continued to help people, and not have to fight for justice," he says. During his fight for his freedom, his plan changed.

Of course, none of that may matter in Precinct 7. People who attend candidates' debates may want to know about drug houses, but in a field of 15 candidates, voters may just look for a familiar name. "It's really a race of popularity," Phillips explains, offering a big toothy grin. "How many friends you have who have friends." When it comes to the polls, that court record may not matter at all.

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