Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Political Desk: Judges

So what's the big deal about the primary, you may ask? We winnow out most of the indy candidates, small parties, and protest candidates within a party and end up with a Democrat and a Republican for November, right? We're just going to get another shot at voting later on.

Well, no.

Here's how it works for our Judges in this state, who are elected as opposed to appointed. If any candidate gets more than 50% in the primary, they win. So our judge positions are determined by the smaller number of voters who show up for the primary (the state is calling it at about 35% of the voting population).

So, in a two-person race, it will be decided right now. In a three-person race, it may be decided now or in November, but the incumbent has some serious advantages.

Oh, and for most of the races, only one person is running. That incredible anti-incumbent throw-the-dastards out wave that is coming out of our heartland? Doesn't apply when it comes to judges.

So the only incumbent judges that are running with any opposition are for our two State Supreme Court positions, No. 1 and No. 6. I've been writing this blog for long enough that I have the entries from when these current incumbents ran the last time, and to be frank, I wasn't very impressed at the time. That judgment carries through to the present day.

At Position 1 we have incumbent Jim Johnson challenged by Stan Rumbaugh. Johnson was heavily funded by the BIAW (Building Industry Association of Washington, a regular player in our local elections), and it turns out that (surprise) he tends to rule in BIAW's favor on things (as opposed to, say, recusing himself). And, while speaking out against "Judicial Activism" when he was running, it turns out that (surprise again), he engages in that very activism and (hold on to your hats) is very conservative in that activism (I know, you're simply shocked).

Rumbaugh, for his part, is an attorney from Tacoma with experience before the Supreme court (about the same as Johnson had in 2004). Both men get good marks from the Municipal League and King County Bar Association. Johnson has the edge both in cash and in getting endorsements from the hinterland newspapers, where his conservatism plays well. I'm going to recommend Stan Rumbaugh for the office, since the BIAW doesn't really deserve their own private Supreme Court Judge.

Over in Position No. 6, we have a similar situation, though this one is more Libertarian in nature as opposed to corporate-owned conservative. Sanders pops up in the news every so often for actions off the bench (Like yelling "Tyrant" at a US Attorney General in regards to Bush policies). He faces a strong contender with Charlie Wiggins, who comes off a more mainstream conservative but has an impressive list of credentials and support from the Muni League and various legal groups. A third candidate, Bryan Cushcoff, Presiding Superior Court Judge for Pierce County, entered late and has spent no money, and may be present only to prevent Sanders from getting in on the primary and forcing it to a run-off.

Me? I'm a bit conflicted. I can point to Sanders making principled stands and I can point at decisions that just make me wince. In the end, I prefer sound judgment over stunts. Take a good look at Charlie Wiggins.

More later,