Voters should look more closely at court contests

The morning after the Sept. 19 primary election offered a few surprises as people picked up their newspapers and skimmed the results. Some of us had to read the numbers twice, especially in the state Supreme Court races.

Just where did Susan Owens, a Clallam County District Court judge, come from to top the list of seven candidates vying for position 2? Owens, the lone female in the race, garnered 26 percent of the vote. Her opponent on the Nov. 7 ballot, Yakima County Prosecutor Jeff Sullivan, earned 18 percent of the votes.

While we support and heartily encourage women in politics, it is hard to avoid wondering if some voters casually marked Owens’ name because she was the only woman running in that race. In fairness, her criss-cross tour of the state may have helped her campaign. And voters may be looking for someone outside the Seattle area to round out the bench.

But Jeff Sullivan is outstandingly well qualified and meets the need for more geographical diversity on the court. Sullivan has 29 years of experience in law, including criminal and civil cases. He has already argued two civil cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and offers the Eastern Washington perspective the current court lacks.

Name recognition or misapplication appears to have contributed to the results in position 9. Jim Foley and Tom Chambers managed to edge out a highly qualified state Court of Appeals judge, Ken Grosse. Perhaps voters are mistaking Jim Foley for former House Speaker Tom Foley. There’s no connection. Tom Chambers, a trial lawyer who has practiced just about every kind of law, deserves the majority vote on Nov. 7. Chambers brings an excellent record of community and professional leadership.

In the voting for position, voters made what was clearly the right choice. Bobbe J. Bridge, who has been referred to as one of the best things to happen on the court lately, received a well deserved vote of confidence with nearly 62 percent of the vote. As a result, her name will be the only one on the Nov. 7 ballot for the position.

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