Hamner upsets incumbent for prosecutor nomination

A former county prosecutor and superior court judge has ousted the incumbent prosecutor, advancing to the November general election.

Lance Hamner has won the Republican nomination for Johnson County Prosecutor with 58% of the vote. His opponent, incumbent Joe Villanueva, received the other 41% of the vote.

If Hamner wins the general election, he will return to the prosecutor’s office for the first time since 2008. He previously served as Johnson County prosecutor from 1991 to 2008, before running for Johnson County Superior Court 3 judge.

When Hamner announced his campaign, he said he was disappointed in how the prosecutor’s office has fared in recent years, and said its mission to fairly and effectively prosecute criminals was not being accomplished. The prosecutor’s office has lost an “unacceptably high” number of cases at trial, and is not communicating the way it should with local officers and victims’ families, Hamner claimed.

Villanueva had been running for his first full term in office. He was selected via a 2019 caucus after former prosecutor Brad Cooper was removed from office due to his felony conviction. Villanueva, who was chief deputy prosecutor at the time, won the caucus against five other candidates.

Following the announcement that Hamner had won, Hamner congratulated both his campaign staff and Villanueva’s for working hard this election.

“I’m sure other campaigns have worked this hard, but I’ve never seen any work harder than this,” Hamner told a crowd of Johnson County Republican officials gathered for an election watch party at The Garment Factory in Franklin.

Hamner was thrilled to be nominated by voters to serve another term as prosecutor. He has plans to improve trainings and relationships with law enforcement.

“I’ve done this job before; I know how to do it,” Hamner said. “I’m looking forward to building a stronger prosecutor’s office.”

Hamner attributes his success to the hard work of his campaign staff and volunteers at getting his message out. Both campaigns worked hard, he said.

“The voters just accepted our message,” he said.

Hamner has one more election before he can take office in January. Before he takes office, he plans on reaching out to other law enforcement partners to make sure the office hits the ground running when he takes over, he said.

Villanueva told the crowd at The Garment Factory that while it was not the outcome he was hoping for, his team ran a nice, clean campaign. He was proud of the accomplishments the office has had under his tenure – something he plans to continue until the end of the year, he said.

He also plans to support Hamner’s transition when the time comes.

“I wish Lance the best of luck,” Villanueva said shortly before shaking Hamner’s hand, a symbolic end to the campaign.


Lance Hamner: 58.4%

Joe Villanueva: 41.6%