A second candidate for the vacant Position 2 Thurston County Superior Court judgeship has filed a petition asking that Court Commissioner Christine Schaller’s name be removed from the ballot.
Marie Clarke, who heads the torts division for the Washington Attorney General’s Office, filed the petition Wednesday. It asks that Schaller’s name be removed from the ballot because she lives in Pierce County, not Thurston. State law requires candidates to live in the county in which they wish to serve.
Schaller’s attorney, Shawn Newman, has said that the state constitution has no residency requirement for Superior Court judge candidates. He also has said the state constitution trumps state law.
Three parties now are seeking to have Schaller be declared ineligible. Two of them, Clarke and Assistant Attorney General Jim Johnson, opposed Schaller in the Aug. 7 primary.
Clarke finished third. The top two vote-getters, Schaller and second-place finisher Johnson, will have their names on the ballot Nov. 6. Johnson and local attorney Vicki Lee Parker also filed their joint petition opposing Schaller’s candidacy Wednesday.
Clarke said Thursday that she thinks that as the third-place finisher, her name should be added to the November ballot.
In a phone interview, she said the issue is of statewide significance because it could set a precedent. In a brief filed with her petition, Clarke presents the following hypothetical situation.
“A foreign national becomes a member of the Washington bar,” it states. “He changes his name to Gerry Alexander, and runs for a position on our state’s Supreme Court. He obtains no funding and does no campaigning, but he is elected in a low turnout primary election due to his name recognition.”
“… (S)uch a result would be absurd and alarming,” the brief states.
Schaller has said she was born in Olympia, has lived most of her life here, and still works her as a Thurston County court commissioner.
The petitions challenging Schaller’s candidacy will be heard by a judge outside of Thurston County, given Schaller’s relationship with the local judiciary.
Clarke said the court can rule on the ballot issue when a judge rules on the merits of her petition.
“The voters, I believe, are entitled to a choice of the top two eligible candidates,” she said.
Newman said he will fight the petitions, describing Johnson and Clarke as “disgruntled candidates” in an email.
“They both want to supplant the will of the voters who overwhelmingly support Schaller,” he wrote to The Olympian, adding, “I am confident their challenges will, once again, be dismissed.”
The petitions are set to be heard by a Kitsap County Superior Court judge at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Port Orchard. Clarke said she will argue the case herself.