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In Our View: Harris and Wulle endorsed

Monday, July 21, 2008 — Clark County voters will find two local judicial races and three state judicial races on their top two primary ballots, which will be mailed from the county elections office on Wednesday, July 30.

Before getting to our recommendations, it should be noted that nonpartisan judicial races do not fall into the top two primary format. In multiple-candidate judicial races, a winner is declared if he or she receives 50 percent plus one of all votes cast. That is what can be reasonably expected in the two local and three statewide races. (Seven local Superior Court judges are running unopposed.) If a local candidate is unopposed, he or she was deemed elected at the close of the filing period and will not appear on the ballot.

Superior Court

Judge Robert Harris has served not only admirably, but unopposed since 1979, and is endorsed for re-election as Superior Court Judge, Dept. 5.

His opponent, David Evans, has no experience as a judge. Evans’ chief campaign tactic is to point out that state law requires Harris must step down when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75, in October 2009. This stipulation, though, is not about Harris, but about a flawed state law, a silly and unwarranted requirement unseen at the level of the U.S. Supreme Court, where judges serve as lifetime appointments.

Harris should be continued in office because he is an excellent judge, and when he retires in 2009 we expect a capable replacement by the governor. That process will include scrutiny, thorough vetting and recommendations by numerous groups, leading to an appointment, and history shows that such a process has worked well. Remember, too, that these Superior Court appointees go before voters in the following election cycle.

The other local Clark County Superior Court judge, incumbent John Wulle, also is endorsed because of his experience, plus his opponent’s lack thereof.

Ernest Edsel not only has not served as judge, but has a track record of numerous contentious encounters with his colleagues.

Wulle himself has flaws, notably the fact that he was censured last year by the Commission on Judicial Conduct for offensive behavior at a training conference. That misconduct was serious, but his otherwise positive contributions from the bench and to the community cannot be ignored, and the baggage carried by the combative Edsel after his numerous disputes with other judges makes him unqualified to replace Wulle.

State Supreme Court

All three incumbents have served admirably and warrant re-election.

They are Mary Fairhurst, Charles Johnson and Debra Stephens. Technically, “re-elect” does not apply in Stephens’ case. She was appointed to the court by Gov. Chris Gregoire in December 2007, and we recommend that voters retain her on the court. This will be easy because she is unopposed and, unlike in local judicial races, state Supreme Court offices will appear on the primary ballot irrespective of the number of candidates filing.

Fairhurst and Johnson are solid, respected and experienced judges whose qualifications and expertise easily distance them from their challengers. We note with great satisfaction the absence in this year’s state Supreme Court elections of attack ads unleashed by big-bucks special-interest groups, as occurred in 2006.


 
 

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