Three incumbent state Supreme Court justices were headed toward re-election Tuesday, despite outside groups spending nearly $1.4 million on efforts to unseat them.
In early returns, incumbent Justice Barbara Madsen led Greg Zempel, the Kittitas County prosecutor, by a comfortable margin. Justice Charlie Wiggins also had a sizable lead over David Larson, a Federal Way Municipal Court judge. And Justice Mary Yu was beating David DeWolf, a recently retired law professor from Gonzaga University.
Outside expenditures in the races outpaced spending by the six candidates’ campaigns, which came in at about $800,000 combined.
Conservative groups and charter school advocates spent nearly $1 million to bolster the campaigns of the three challengers, citing disappointment in some of the high court’s recent rulings.
Education reform groups were particularly unhappy with the court’s 2015 decision declaring Washington’s voter-approved charter schools unconstitutional.
Republicans also have been dissatisfied with the court’s rulings in the McCleary school-funding case, in which the court found the state in contempt over lawmakers’ failure to come up with a plan to fully fund public schools by 2018.
Supporters of Larson spent another $400,000 on independent expenditure ads attacking Wiggins, including by blasting a majority opinion Wiggins wrote overturning a child pornography conviction.
Defenders of Wiggins said the ruling was being misconstrued, and that it really dealt with protecting citizens’ rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
Other political action committees spent about $330,000 on independent ads promoting the incumbent justices’ re-election. Those PACs were funded in part by the political arm of the statewide teachers union, the Washington Education Association.