Chambers wins high court seat; 2nd race close


Associated Press

SEATTLE — Seattle personal-injury lawyer Tom Chambers won one of two open seats on the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday. The race for the other seat between a prosecutor and a traffic judge was too close to call.

Chambers, making his first bid for office, thwarted Olympia lawyer Jim Foley’s second shoestring campaign for the state’s highest court.

The other race was between Susan Owens, a part-time judge on the Olympic Peninsula who handles misdemeanors and small claims, and Yakima County Prosecutor Jeff Sullivan, who has argued cases before the highest courts in the state and the nation but never served as a judge.

Owens held a narrow lead over Sullivan in early returns.

The winners will succeed a pair of top legal minds on the high court: Chief Justice Richard Guy and Justice Phil Talmadge.

Two incumbent justices faced no opposition on Tuesday’s ballot.

Justice Bobbe Bridge, appointed to the bench last year by Gov. Gary Locke, easily defeated a lone challenger in the nonpartisan September primary.

Justice Gerry Alexander, selected by his colleagues last week to succeed Guy as chief justice in January, was a lock for a second term when no one signed up to oppose him.

The winners of campaigns for the two open seats will join a court that weighs in on issues that affect citizens’ daily lives — growth management and police power, among them — and bigger political issues. Last month, the court struck down Initiative 695, the voter-approved initiative that sought to limit tax increases.

Foley and Chambers were vying for the court’s Position 9 seat.

In 1998, Foley finished second in a seven-way race for the high court, though he hardly campaigned. He attributed his showing to his small-town values as a "country lawyer," but most observers agreed name recognition was a factor — the name he shares with Tom Foley, the former congressman and longtime U.S. House Speaker from Spokane, no relation.

This year, Foley, 44, pledged to reject contributions from insurance companies, trial lawyers and political committees that typically aid judicial candidates. It was a low-risk tactic, as he received very little help two years ago.

Chambers, 56, sought to focus attention on his experience. He has been a lawyer for more than 30 years — three times as long as Foley — and has served as head of the state bar and the trial lawyer’s association.

Owens and Sullivan were the top two vote-getters for the Position 2 seat in a seven-way primary race.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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