Seven vie for state appeals court seat

  • Jim Haley<br>For the Enterprise
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 6:45am

Seven candidates’ names will be clustered around a single state Court of Appeals position on Snohomish County ballots in the Nov. 8 general election.

The virtual stampede of office-seekers was created by an unusual circumstance that prevented a primary election and a reduction of the number of candidates for final selection.

Faye Kennedy, one of two Snohomish County judges allotted to Division 1 of the court, died Sept. 16 – right before the primary election – making it a winner-take-all decision in the general election for the seven candidates who filed for the seat.

Six lawyers and a judge rushed into a shortened campaign in which the winner could be decided by relatively few votes. In theory, if the seven candidates spread the vote out nearly evenly, one who gets as little as 15 percent could win.

More realistically, the winner will probably garner between 20 percent and 30 percent, candidates say.

The prize is the remaining five years of Kennedy’s term. The job pays nearly $140,000 a year.

Two of the candidates have lots of judicial experience, including Superior Court Judge Stephen Dwyer and former Superior Court Judge David Hulbert. Also, a Snohomish County deputy prosecutor with 22 years of appellate experience, Seth Fine, and longtime Everett lawyer J. Robert Leach are among the competitors.

According to state Public Disclosure Commission records, as of Tuesday, Leach has gathered $146,000 for the campaign, including $125,000 he put into his own war chest. Dwyer has collected more than $62,000, including a large gift from relatives. Fine and Hulbert have raised about $30,000 each.

Also in the campaign are Harold Field, co-manager of a law firm, Edmonds tax and bankruptcy attorney David Freese (who has raised about $1,500) and Edmonds general practice attorney Michael Hall.

According to the public disclosure Web site, as of Tuesday, Field and Hall have not declared any campaign contributions.

With the possibility of so few voters deciding a race, some built-in constituencies and endorsements may go a long way toward a victory.

Hulbert, for example, has won election to Superior Court three times, and he has the endorsements of a state Supreme Court judge, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi and the Snohomish-Camano Board of Realtors.

Dwyer was an Edmonds City Council member for 11 years and ran for office several times as a district court judge in south Snohomish County. His endorsements include Democrats U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, former Gov. Gary Locke and Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon.

Fine is getting support from deputy prosecutors, including the prosecutors’ bargaining unit. He also has backing from a former Supreme Court judge, a state police organization and several judges and victims rights advocates.

Leach has never run for office before, but he has numerous current and former judges, Court of Appeals Judge William Baker and a current and former prosecuting attorney on his endorsement list.

Jim Haley is a reporter with The Herald in Everett.

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