Plea bargaining: Camblos rides the hottest seat

Jim Camblos has been in the hot seat even more than usual. Last week he called a press conference to address a controversy that he doesn't want to talk about during his Hot Seat interview.

It's those tough negotiating skills that no doubt serve him well as Albemarle County commonwealth's attorney, a position for which he's running unopposed for his fourth term.

"This job is the hot seat," the Republican candidate says. "The buck stops here. I didn't know that until I became commonwealth's attorney."

Camblos says he's an attorney first and a politician second. Still, his political instincts are pretty finely honed, and he seems well aware of how what he's saying is going to read in the newspaper. His best sound bites are off the record as he orders "Don't write that" more than once.

"I'm comfortable in politics, but I don't really like it," he admits. And he points out the irony of running for commonwealth's attorney. "One of the absolute contradictions of being a politician is that you need to be nice to get elected," Albemarle's top prosecutor acknowledges. "Once you're elected, you need to be stern."

The bowtie- and monogrammed shirt-wearing Camblos had an opponent– another Republican– in this year's election for all of two-and-a-half weeks. "I take that to mean a lot of people are pleased with the job I'm doing," he says.

His family seems to be genetically inclined toward the law: he's the fifth generation to be an attorney, and three of those were judges as well. He's open to the idea of a judgeship, but concedes, "I had a bad experience with a judgeship a few years ago," when he wasn't appointed to the 16th Circuit Court in Albemarle.

After 12 years of prosecuting masterminds and dolts, here's the dumbest case he's encountered: a guy was selling Dale Earnhardt autographed pictures, only they were dated a month after Earnhardt died. "That," says Camblos, "was stupid."

He's learned one thing as commonwealth's attorney: "Never underestimate what someone's willing to do or say."

Are there any misperceptions about him in the press that he'd like to clear up? "If you read about a plea agreement in the newspaper, and you don't like what you read, you can take it to the bank I didn't like doing it," he says.

And there's one other thing: "I think I'm nicer than people perceive me as commonwealth's attorney." But he does drive a hard bargain.

Age: 57

What brought you here? A '46 Studebaker with my parents after WWII, when I was six months old.

What's worst about living here? Nothing. Albemarle County is a little bit of heaven.

Favorite hangout? My house

Most overrated virtue? I do not believe I can rate virtues one against the other.

What would people be surprised to know about you? That I'm a pretty good woodworker.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would not be bald, because I do not like wearing hats.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? My job as Albemarle County commonwealth's attorney and my friendships that go back 50 years.

What do people find most annoying about you? It depends on the day of the week.

Whom do you admire? Many people: those who work hard, take care of their families, are honest, and respect their country and its values.

Favorite book? To Kill a Mockingbird

 What subject causes you to rant? Trashy television, which most of it is

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? That I'm here to enjoy it

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? The increasing lack of morality in our culture, and the speed with which it's declining.

What do you drive? A 1997 Plymouth minivan. My alter ego drives a 1985 Mercedes convertible on nice days.

What's in your car CD player right now? America, Why I Love Her by John Wayne

What's your next journey? Hopefully grandchildren

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? Disagreeing with my wife on any subject. (Just kidding, Chris.)

What do you regret? Not taking up the very frustrating game of golf years earlier, or, in the alternative, taking up golf at all.

Favorite comfort food? Breyer's chocolate ice cream

What's always in your refrigerator? Ice cream

Must-see TV? History Channel. Certainly nothing current, given my answer above.

Favorite cartoon? Road Runner and Foghorn Leghorn

Describe a perfect day. A day at home with my wife, working in the yard or in my woodworking shop

Walter Mitty fantasy? Being with Lewis and Clark on their Voyage of Discovery

Who'd play you in the movie? David Ogden Stiers, the actor who played Major Charles Winchester in Mash

 Most embarrassing moment? The time I asked a casual acquaintance when she was expecting the baby. She informed me she was not!

Best advice you ever got? When my friend in Boston, Massachusetts, suggested I ask the good-looking brunette in Apartment 2 for a date. Chris is my wife of 29 years.

Favorite bumper sticker? Camblos for Commonwealth's Attorney


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