There will be two new faces on the Pierce County Superior Court bench come January.
Deputy prosecutor Jerry Costello was well on his way to ousting sitting Judge Beverly Grant in one of the five contested races Tuesday, and Stan Rumbaugh held a sizeable lead against Helen Whitener in a battle of two attorneys seeking an open seat.
Three incumbents – Stephanie Arend, Kathryn Nelson and Vicki Hogan – looked like they would hold onto their jobs for four more years.
The county’s 22 Superior Court judges preside over felony criminal cases, divorces and high-dollar civil disputes, among other duties. They make about $150,000 per year.
Costello declared early for the Deprtment 7 seat upon learning that incumbent Frederick Fleming planned to retire. It looked like Costello would be unopposed until filing week, when Grant decided to abandon her current seat in Department 18 to challenge him.
Costello raised five times as much campaign money as Grant, totaling more than $100,000, and won endorsements from his boss, Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, as well as Sheriff Paul Pastor, County Council chairwoman Joyce McDonald and others.
Costello, a long-serving government lawyer, was seeking his first judgeship. He made an issue of Grant’s poor showing in the most recent evaluation of Superior Court judges by the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association.
Costello called unacceptable the fact that 61 percent of the lawyers who took part in the survey said they didn’t think they could get a fair and competent hearing in Grant’s court.
“I’m humbled to be able to represent the public on the bench,” Costello said Tuesday evening.
Grant, first appointed to the bench in 2003, said she jumped seats to make sure voters had a choice and campaigned on her judicial experience and African-American heritage, saying it was an asset on the predominantly white bench.
Efforts to reach Grant for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.
In the race for Grant’s Department 18 seat, longtime civil attorney Rumbaugh faced off against criminal-defense expert Whitener in a race of two attorneys seeking their first seat on the bench.
Rumbaugh said during the campaign that his 33-year law career made him ideally suited to be a judge, and voters appeared to be agreeing with him.
In the other races, Arend easily was fending off a challenge from attorney Antoni Froehling in the race for Department 12; Hogan was ahead of former chief public defender Jack Hill in the Department 5 contest; and Nelson held a sizeable lead over local attorney James Schoenberger in the Department 13 race.