Politics & Government

A look at Washington State's Supreme Court races

Three Supreme Court races are on Washington State's Aug. 19 ballot, but none is as hotly contested as races two years ago -- and one candidate has a free ride.

-- Debra Stephens of Spokane, who was appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire late last year as the first woman justice from Eastern Washington, drew the lucky card and has no opponent.

-- In another race, one-term Justice Mary Fairhurst has a huge financial and endorsement edge over challenger Michael Bond, a King County lawyer who thinks Fairhurst, who is backed by more than 100 judges and the governor, too often takes the side of government in cases.

-- In the third race, three-term Associate Chief Justice Charles W. Johnson faces two weakly funded opponents, both of whom say the court system needs improvement.

Unlike two years ago when outside groups spent more than a million dollars trying to influence the outcome of Supreme Court races by running sharply negative television ads, the races this year are relatively quiet.

Fairhurst raised more than $165,000 by late July — more than the $164,221 the job will pay next year. Several of her largest donations, each for $1,600, came from trial-lawyer groups that are giving heavily to all three incumbents. Fairhurst also has money from the Washington Education Association, Service Employees International Union and Washington Federation of State Employees. Bond had raised $12,477, including a $3,000 loan.

In Johnson's race, he was the only candidate reporting fundraising as of July 29.

"There is no Supreme Court race," Tom McCabe, the hard-nosed vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, half-joked recently. It was McCabe's group that played a turbulent role in the 2006 elections with ads aimed at the chief justice, but this time BIAW found no one it wanted to support.

Read the full story at theolympian.com.