Questions in a judicial race

Last Tuesday’s primary election, a low-turnout profile in voter indifference, pulled back the curtain on voter choice. When in doubt, is ignorance bliss or an inconvenient expression of our lesser angels?

State Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez, a celebrated jurist with strong, bipartisan backing, throws the question into relief.

Gonzalez, an eminently qualified former King County Superior Court Judge, was appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier this year to fill the remaining term of Justice Gary Alexander, who was forced to retire at age 75 (an ageist requirement that needs to be nixed.) Gonzalez’s stellar record earned him unprecedented bipartisan support, from Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna to former Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee. Blessed are the peacemakers such as Gonzalez who can corral endorsements from both the conservative Association of Washington Business to every union imaginable.

A little-known attorney from Kitsap County, Bruce Danielson, became the self-appointed, sacrificial opponent. Danielson raised zero dollars, appeared never to campaign and was, in political-science parlance, a nobody.

Arguably, however, Danielson was enough of a somebody to win in 28 of Washington’s 39 counties. Fortunately, Gonzalez triumphed, earning 58 percent of the statewide vote because voters in high-population counties like Snohomish (and enlightened rural counties like Island) could separate the wheat from the political placeholder.

Gonzalez boosters anticipated trouble in Tuesday’s deciding vote, and the Stranger’s Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Eli Sanders, flagged the question as an impassive electorate received ballots with the names of two souls running for a judicial office that demands judgment, seasoning and intelligence. Is it prudent, when in doubt, to surmise based on a gut sense? Could the absence of a printed, statewide voters’ pamphlet be to blame?

No one likes to drudge up what W.E.B. Du Bois called “the color line.” Nevertheless, we can avoid discussing religion and politics with our in-laws, but we’re obliged to be forthcoming in the public sphere. At times a culture of “Northwest nice” militates against highlighting the obvious. So take note of the elephant in the election returns, that in many parts of Washington, Gonzalez fared poorly because he has a non-Anglo surname. Period.

Latinos, who continue to be politically underrepresented, are the state’s largest-growing ethnic group. As a population, Latinos brace against a current of invidious, cross-class discrimination compounded by an acrimonious debate over immigration.

So, let’s confess that anti-Latino bigotry is a problem in Washington, and invest in educating the next generation about the consequences of racial ignorance. We can’t do much with bigoted adults. The solution, as Frederick Douglass noted, is to build strong children.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Editorial cartooooooons for Saturday, Oct. 31

A grab bag of sketchy tricks and treats for Halloween.… Continue reading

Sen. Kamala Harris in Las Vegas on Oct. 27. She understands things that Joe Biden, Mike Pence, Dick Cheney and all the other veeps couldn't. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Melina Mara
Comment: Harris knows what no vice president has ever known

There is a difference between being sympathetic to women’s issues and having lived through them.

Schwab: Everything we needed to know we learned from Trump

Trump’s four years have been a master class in what we can lose if we just sit and watch it happen.

Herald’s left-leaning bias too much to bear

I am getting weary. The Herald’s left-leaning bias is getting almost too… Continue reading

Trump and other elites need to pay their share of taxes

For someone who claims to be such an accomplished businessman, for someone… Continue reading

Editorial cartoons for Friday, Oct. 30

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

john lewis vote
Editorial: A recap of our general election endorsements

Get your ballot in by mail or drop box soon to make sure it counts in the Nov. 3 election.

Kevin Duncan puts his ballot in the ballot drop box outside of the Arlington Library on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 in Arlington, Wash. The Arlington school District has three measures on the February ballot, including one to replace Post Middle School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Commentary: Get your ballots in early by mail or drop box

To make sure your ballot is counted and your voice heard get your ballot in; the earlier, the better.

Election vote icon for general use.
Editorial: Approve 8212 to make most of long-term care fund

Approval would allow the fund — supporting care services — to be carefully invested by a state board.

Most Read