Jeanette Lineberry appeared poised to win the Position 8 seat on the Pierce County District Court bench on Tuesday, and Drew Ann Henke was leading in the race for Tacoma Municipal Court, Position 2.
Lineberry, a Gig Harbor resident who works as a staff attorney at the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center, held a solid lead over University Place attorney Karl Williams in early returns.
Lineberry is a former deputy prosecutor who also worked in private practice before joining the Crystal Judson center. She touted her diversity of experience during the campaign.
Williams has served as a temporary judge at various court levels for 17 years and has sought a permanent judgeship since 2000.
Both candidates were rated as “exceptionally well qualified” by the Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association and enjoyed endorsements from heavy hitters in local politics.
Lineberry, who spent $87,000 of her own money on the race, said improving access to justice by making the court system easier to navigate was important to her and advocated making more court forms available online and improving the District Court website. Increasing services for mentally ill patients also was a priority for her.
Williams said making alternatives to incarceration available for low-income defendants was important. Williams, who is black, also said it was high time an African American was elected to the currently all-white District Court bench.
The job pays about $140,000 annually.
In the Tacoma Municipal Court race, Henke, administrative court judge and former deputy prosecutor, led veteran defense attorney Rob Freeby. The job pays $144,000 annually.
Both candidates said they supported increasing court services for mentally ill people, and Freeby, a Navy veteran, also advocated creating a veterans court to help military members who find themselves in the criminal justice system.
The race was marked by controversy after one of Henke’s campaign workers inadvertently identified her as a member of the American Heritage Party on a state-required form. Freeby’s camp seized on that mistake and sent out a robocall that accused his opponent of violating judicial ethics by affiliating herself with a political party. He had the call pulled upon learning of the error, but Henke complained that the damage had been done.
In two races for state Supreme Court, incumbent Justices Debra Stephens and Charles Johnson were sailing toward re-election.
Stephens’ opponent was disbarred attorney John “Zamboni” Scannell. Johnson faced attorney Eddie Yoon, a Tacoma city prosecutor in the 1970s who now teaches at a law school in South Korea.
Staff writer Alexis Krell contributed to this report.