Two Tacoma judges on the Pierce County Superior Court face challenges to their re-election bids, and a third faces a pair of opponents if she decides to run again.
Judge Kathryn Nelson drew her first challenge since taking office in 2001 when Tacoma defense attorney James Schoenberger filed paperwork Tuesday to run. Hours earlier, Orting lawyer Toni Froehling filed to take on Judge Stephanie Arend, on the bench since 1999.
Contests for judicial races are fairly rare, but Froehling sees them as a benefit, even after serving on the Sumner school board for more than two decades and never facing an opponent.
“When you have a contested election, at least people talk about it and focus on it,” said Froehling, who works on civil cases involving personal injury, construction and schools. “It’s not a position for life. People should have to be accountable for what they do and what they say.”
Candidate filing week runs through Friday for local, state and federal offices.
Both Nelson and Arend are running for re-election, as are all but three of the rest of the 22 Superior Court judges. Two judges are stepping down, and Judge Beverly Grant says she hasn’t decided whether to run again.
Tacoma trial lawyer Stan Rumbaugh didn’t wait for Grant to make her choice. He chose to return to campaigning after falling short in a 2010 bid for state Supreme Court.
And his decision in turn prompted another lawyer to file: Helen Whitener of University Place, who has defended clients such as the sister of cop killer Maurice Clemmons. “This way I can give the voters that opportunity to keep that well-needed balance on the bench,” she said, adding that she’s a former deputy prosecutor and public defender.
Rumbaugh said judges become complacent without challenges to their re-election. He was critical of Grant’s performance. “Everybody’s aware of how she came out in terms of the Bar poll and how the (attorneys) felt what her capacity was, and the record is clear about many of the, shall we say, less than judicious moments she has had on the bench,” he said.
In a well-publicized episode in 2006, Grant led a cheer for the Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks in a courtroom waiting for her to sentence a man for manslaughter.
Grant received low marks in a 2008 survey of lawyers by the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association. Nelson also was among the lower ranked, while Arend mostly received scores in the middle of her colleagues.
Nelson said she while she is willing to adapt to critiques, the poll reflects the opinions of those who win and lose in her courtroom.
“I don’t worry about being popular. I worry about being correct and doing what the law says I’m to do,” said Nelson, who has worked on family and juvenile matters.
Schoenberger declined to go into specific complaints about Nelson but said he’s running because “judicial mistakes are costly” and pledged to “restore impartiality and fairness” to the position. He represents criminal clients and sexually violent predators being committed.
Judges Rosanne Buckner and Frederick Fleming are not running again. Pierce County District Court Judge Jack Nevin of University Place is running to succeed Buckner, and county deputy prosecutor Jerry Costello of Tacoma is seeking Fleming’s position.
New filings in other races include:
U.S. Senate – Art Coday of Shoreline, Republican.
8th Congressional District – James Windle of Snoqualmie Pass, no party preference.
9th Congressional District – Adam Smith of Tacoma, Democrat (incumbent).
Governor – Jay Inslee of Bainbridge Island, Democrat.
Lieutenant governor – Bill Finkbeiner of Kirkland, Republican.
Attorney general – Bob Ferguson of Seattle, Democrat.
State treasurer – Jim McIntire of Seattle, Democrat (incumbent).
State auditor – Troy Kelley of Tacoma, Democrat.
Superintendent of public instruction (nonpartisan) – James Bauckman of Bellingham.
Supreme Court (nonpartisan) – Position 9: John Ladenburg of Tacoma and Richard Sanders of Vashon.
2nd Legislative District – Randi Becker of Eatonville, Republican (incumbent).
26th Legislative District – House Position 1: Jan Angel of Port Orchard, Republican (incumbent).
28th Legislative District – Senate: Mike Carrell of Lakewood, Republican (incumbent); Yoshie Wong of University Place, Democrat. House Position 1: Eric Choiniere of University Place, Democrat.
30th Legislative District – House Position 1: Thom Macfarlane of Federal Way, Democrat.
Pierce County Council District 4 – Chris Nye of University Place, Republican; Connie Ladenburg of Tacoma, Democrat; Sharon Benson of Tacoma, Democrat.firstname.lastname@example.org 360-786-1826 blog.thenewstribune.com/politics @Jordan_Schrader