Smith on Politics: Ten Judicial Positions on Primary Ballot; Primary Will Decide at Least Four Races

Do your homework on primary judicial races—it matters; Monday deadline for voter registration

Editor's note: Some additional ratings of the judge candidates have been added to this story per reader request.

Primary election ballots in Shoreline, Lake Forest Park and the rest of King County will have 10 judicial contests, at least four in which the primary will decide the winners. That’s because of the special rules governing judicial elections in Washington.

Five positions on the King County Superior Court will be on the Aug. 7 primary ballot, with any candidate who gets a majority of the primary vote winning without appearing on the November general-election ballot. Since three of the five positions have only two candidates each, those primaries probably will determine the winner. One of the other two positions has three candidates; the other has four. A candidate could win either contest with a majority of the primary vote.

If no candidate gets a majority, the top two from the primary run off in the Nov. 6 general election. Forty-eight other Superior Court positions have only one candidate each; so those candidates win without running in either the primary or the general election.

The primary ballot also has three State Supreme Court positions and two Court of Appeals positions, but those elections have different rules. All five positions appear on both the primary and general-election ballots whatever the number of candidates. One Supreme Court position has two candidates, meaning that one candidate probably will get a majority and appear unopposed on the November ballot. The other two positions have three and four candidates. If any candidate gets a majority, he or she will appear unopposed in November. If no one gets a majority, the top two vote getters will appear on the November ballot.

The two appeals court positions have only one candidate each, but candidates for both positions will appear unopposed on both the primary and general-election ballots.

One of the Superior Court contests matches attorney Hong Tran and Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sean O'Donnell. The King County Municipal League gave O'Donnell its highest rating. “outstanding”; the League gave Tran its second highest rating, very good.” The King County Bar Association has rated O’Donnell as “well qualified” and has set Tran’s rating for reconsideration.

Another race matches three-term incumbent Judge Doug North and Redmond City Councilwoman Kimberly Allen. The Municipal League rated North “outstanding” and Allen: “very good. “ The County Bar Association has not yet rated North and says that it has insufficient information to rate Allen.

A third matches attorney Judy Ramseyer and Senior Deputy Prosecutor Gary Ernsdorff. The Municipal League rated both “outstanding.” The County Bar Association has rated Ramseyer as “well qualified” but has not yet rated Ernsdorff.

Candidates for all of the two-candidate positions will appear at a primary-election forum July 24 at 7 p.m. at the Richmond Beach Congregational Church.

The three-way contest includes attorney and Pro-tem Judge Elizabeth Berns, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Roger Davidheiser and Appeals Court Commissioner Eric Schmidt. The Municipal league rated Berns “outstanding,” and both Davidheiser and Schmidt “very good.” The County Bar Association has rated Davidheiser and Schmidt “exceptionally well qualified” and Berns as “not qualified.” 

The four-way race involves attorney David Ruzumna, senior trial attorney Sue Parisien, trial attorney and Judge Pro-tem Marianne Jones and two-term incumbent Judge Christopher Washington. The Municipal league gave Parisien and Washington the “very good” rating, gave Ruzumna its third highest rating, “good,” and gave Jones its fourth highest rating, “adequate.” The County Bar Association has rated Washington as “well qualified” and Resuma as “qualified” but has yet to rate either Parisien or Jones. 

The two-way State Supreme Court contest matches appointed incumbent Justice Steve Gonzalez and Seattle attorney Bruce O. Danielson. Gonzalez has been rated as "execptionally well-qualified," by eight law organizations and "well-qualified" by two others. The King County Bar Association has rated Gonzales as “exceptionally well qualified” but has yet to rate Danielson. 

The three-way race involves two-term incumbent Justice Susan Owens, Seattle attorney Douglas W. McQuaid and Arlington attorney Scott Stafne. The King County Bar Association has yet to review any of the three.

Incumbent Appeals Court Judges Marlin Appelwick and Ronald E. Cox are running unopposed.

The four-way race includes former Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders, King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Hilyer, trial and appellate lawyer Sheryl Gordon McCloud, former Pierce County prosecuting attorney and County executive John W. Ladenburg. The King County Bar Association has rated McCloud as “exceptionally well qualified” and Sanders as “well qualified” but has yet to rate either Hilyer or Ladenburg.

The Municipal League announced ratings of candidates for King County judicial positions Monday along with its ratings of legislative and King County sheriff candidates.The Municipal League rates candidates on “involvement, effectiveness, character and knowledge.” 

The League says that it tries to determine whether candidates would be effective in the office they seek and how well they could serve the community.The League says, “Political affiliation or the stance a candidate has on any particular issue is not considered as part of the League rating process.”

Monday deadline for voter registration

Monday, July 9, is the last day for voters to register by mail or online for the Aug. 7 primary election, or for previously registered Washington voters to change their voting addresses.

Voters who want to register by mail can get material at many libraries and at most post offices, or they can download forms from the King County elections website or the secretary of state's website.

Voters can register online by following links from either website. The secretary of state's registration web site is www.vote.wa.gov;

New Washington voters can register through July 30, but they must register at the county elections office in Renton.

About this column: Journalist and Shoreline resident Evan Smith has covered local issues for nearly two decades. His politics column appears on Patch every other week.



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