Irrefutably, Santa Cruz County’s greatest strength is its people. Thirteen years ago, I entered the Santa Cruz County Courthouse without the slightest idea of how impactful this community and its people would be on my life.

When I began working for George Silva at the County Attorney’s Office, I fell in love with this community. I have been humbled and in awe of the community’s support for me as chief deputy. I respectfully ask for your continued support as I announce that I will be running for Superior Court judge.

I congratulate Judge Anna Montoya on her amazing career and upcoming retirement. It is well deserved. I am thankful for everything that she has done for our community. She leaves open a position that requires someone who is fair, experienced, ethical, hard-working and dedicated to serving justice in every case.

These characteristics have guided my career. I have been practicing law for 20 years, dedicating all those years to public service.

Before Santa Cruz County, I worked for Pima County, where I prosecuted misdemeanors and practiced appellate work. I then moved to Greenlee County and served as its chief deputy attorney. While there, I served as president of the Graham-Greenlee Bar Association and president of the Clifton-Morenci Rotary Club.

In Santa Cruz County, my service as the supervising prosecutor has never been easy. It requires the wearing of multiple hats. At all times, I must advocate for victims, promote public safety and protect defendants’ constitutional rights.

Sometimes I fight for justice for grieving families who have lost a loved one to violent crime. Sometimes I ask the court to impose a lesser sentence to a defendant because I see the potential one has to change his or her life. Every case is different, and that is why I consider each case accordingly. This community has given me the strength, empathy and humility necessary to guide me through these responsibilities.

Outside of prosecution, my focus is on the youth in our community. I often speak at school assemblies, attend career fairs, participate in the Operation Detour drug crime prevention outreach program, and host our annual summer high school internship program.

I have two wonderful children who are the pride of my life. My son is a musician and Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. My daughter is an attorney in Washington state.

I thank you for your attention and your support. In the next several months, I look forward to getting to know many of you and for you to get to learn more about me.

(Ortega is a resident of Tubac and candidate for Santa Cruz County Superior Court judge in Division 2.)

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