A Chippewa Falls attorney has announced his candidacy for the Chippewa County judge seat that will be vacant next year.

Ben Lane, who grew up between Bloomer and Cornell and graduated from Chippewa Falls High School in 2000, announced his candidacy for the Branch III judge seat. Judge Steve Cray announced Friday he will not seek re-election in April. His term expires July 31, 2020.

“I’m running for judge because I believe that the people of Chippewa County deserve a judge that will decide cases fairly and impartially, free of political influence or intimidation,” Lane said in a press release announcing his candidacy. “Like Judge Cray, I will follow the law regardless of my own personal view and strive to make this community a safe place to live and raise a family.”

Lane, 37, earned two undergraduate degrees from UW-Eau Claire and his law degree from the University of Wisconsin. He interned for Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Michael Gableman. He also worked as a special prosecutor for the state, before returning to Chippewa Falls, where he joined Wiley Law firm in 2010.

Lane was appointed as one of the Chippewa County court commissioners in May 2017, where he presides over hundreds of cases each year. He also is chairman of the Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, is a past president of the Chippewa Valley Cultural Association-Heyde Center for the Arts and the vice chair of the Community Foundation of Chippewa County.

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“I have two kids, and (this area) has been great to me, growing up, and I want Chippewa Falls to continue to be a safe place,” he said.

The election is in April 7; if there are three or more candidates, a primary will be held Feb. 18.

A judicial seat is a six-year term. The state created the third judicial seat in fall 2007. Cray, 68, won the open seat in April 2008 and was re-elected in 2014.

Lane has established a Facebook page at @benlaneforjudge.

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