Mark your primary ballot carefully in judicial races

July 20, 2012 

Unfortunately, the primary ballot sitting on your counter reads a lot like the phone book when it comes to the statewide races. Huge cast of characters, not much plot.

There is no statewide voter pamphlet for this year's primary. (A victim of budget cuts.)

So unless you've done a lot of independent research, you probably don't have much information about the candidates. The Washington Secretary of State's website can help a little. It includes a video voters' guide that lets you see and hear short clips from the candidates.

And in two races, the Tri-City Herald can help.

We don't typically make recommendations in the primary, but at least one race for state Supreme Court, and possibly two, will be determined by this ballot.

Under state law, if a judicial candidate gets more than half the votes in the primary election, he or she is elected to the court.

For that reason, pay special attention to Supreme Court Justice positions 2 and 8.

Position 8

In our opinion it would be a huge mistake to either vote for Bruce O. Danielson or to refrain from voting in this race. Steven Gonzalez is the only viable choice.

Put Danielson's name into the search engine of your choice and you will find a one-page website with a few broad statements about the Constitution. You also will see a long list of election events he declined to participate in.

He didn't return calls for interviews with us or the Yakima Herald-Republic, and didn't respond to the Seattle Times editorial board's invitation.

We can't say much about Danielson, since we know virtually nothing about him. We wonder how responsive he'd be to an electorate he seems to be hiding from.

Conversely, incumbent Steven Gonzalez has been rated "well qualified" or "exceptionally well qualified" by 10 bar associations.

He was appointed to fill a vacancy late last year, but he also has extensive experience as a Superior Court judge and a lengthy list of endorsements from community leaders, elected officials (including gubernatorial candidates Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee and both the Republican and Democratic candidates for state attorney general) and long list of judges, including many from the Mid-Columbia.

Gonzalez clearly is respected by his peers and he also has been a champion of the citizens.

He has been instrumental in unsealing many of the illegally sealed cases in this state and in revising many of the legal forms so ordinary citizens can understand them.

So, not only do we strongly recommend voting for Gonzalez, we urge voters not to leave this race blank (in case you're considering it.)

Position 2

Our advice in Position 2 is not as strong, but we do think Susan Owens is the clear choice.

Because this is a three-way race, it's possible you will see Position 2 on the ballot again in November.

Owens is seeking her third term on the bench. She is a senior member of the panel and serves as a mentor to some of the newer members. She is well qualified and has served the state well for 12 years.

Her opponents are Douglas W. McQuaid and Scott Stafne.

McQuaid has spent 40 years in the courts and is a Vietnam veteran. He said he is running against Owens because she already has served her time. He also disagrees with candidates raising money for fear that it influences their decisions later.

He's wrong about the value of incumbency. Seniority and experience, coupled with a good service record, are valuable in any job. And, like it or not, fundraising is part of our political process. McQuaid admits he has no reason to believe Owens has misused it.

We appreciate McQuaid's bid for office and service to our country, but we think he lacks the judicial experience needed on the state Supreme Court.

Stafne, on the other hand, openly admits he is not running against Owens as much as he is running against the system.

His main complaints concern unpublished decisions in the appellate courts and the expense and pitfalls of navigating our legal system.

There clearly is room for improvement in our judicial system, and Stafne is taking full advantage of the campaign process to advocate for reform.

But even if Stafne were to win a seat on the state Supreme Court, that's not a platform for bringing about the changes Stafne wants to see.

Here's how the King County Bar Association ranks these candidates: Owens as well qualified, Stafne as not qualified and McQuaid as refused to participate.

We find ourselves agreeing with them.

The Tri-City Herald recommends Steven Gonzalez for Washington State Supreme Court Position 8 and Susan Owens for Washington State Supreme Court Position 2.

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service