NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

If it weren’t for local newspapers, many local judicial races might have gotten no coverage

Editor’s Note: This post is the third install­ment in a series focus­ing on most­ly ignored state and local judi­cial con­tests in the 2018 midterm elec­tions. Read the first post in the series — focus­ing on the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court and the con­test between Jus­tice Steve Gon­za­lez and his chal­lenger — by fol­low­ing this link. The sec­ond post in the series, focus­ing on this year’s sole con­test­ed race for Court of Appeals, in north­west Wash­ing­ton, is also worth read­ing.

Newsprint has been called a dead medi­um many times in the last few years, but if it weren’t for local dai­ly and week­ly news­pa­pers, we’d be total­ly bereft of cov­er­age of many impor­tant issues and con­cerns… like judi­cial elec­tions, which many vot­ers have dif­fi­cul­ty fig­ur­ing out because of a lack of infor­ma­tion about the candidates.

All judi­cial con­tests in Wash­ing­ton are non­par­ti­san, so the can­di­dates’ names appear on our bal­lots with no par­ty affil­i­a­tion or cues of any kind. The bal­lots don’t even say who is an incum­bent judge or jus­tice (if one is run­ning). They sim­ply list the can­di­dates’ names, the posi­tion they are seek­ing for, and the term length.

Tele­vi­sion and radio sta­tions almost nev­er cov­er judi­cial races, not even high pro­file ones, which means that our sur­viv­ing news­pa­pers are almost the only media out­lets devot­ing resources to pro­duc­ing jour­nal­ism about these elections.

There aren’t many oth­er resources avail­able to vot­ers to com­pen­sate for the dearth of cov­er­age, either. There’s VotingForJudges.org, but in most races, it sim­ply offers the can­di­dates’ vot­er pam­phlet state­ments and links to their PDC reports.

Some orga­ni­za­tions vet judi­cial can­di­dates pri­or to prepar­ing sam­ple bal­lots or endorse­ment guides for their mem­bers, but the infor­ma­tion they col­lect (like ques­tion­naire respons­es) isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly made avail­able to the public.

Here at NPI, we’ve been try­ing to shine a spot­light on as many judi­cial con­tests as we can before Novem­ber 6th through the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, and urg­ing more media out­lets (espe­cial­ly tele­vi­sion and radio sta­tions) to do likewise.

While we have pub­lished our own posts explor­ing judi­cial con­tests on this blog and plan to pub­lish more, we also want to rec­og­nize the news­pa­pers that have been doing the same over the past few weeks with­out any prompt­ing or cajoling.

Our first shout-out goes to The Dai­ly Her­ald of Everett, which pub­lished a sto­ry exam­in­ing the race for Cas­cade Dis­trict Court up in Sno­homish Coun­ty.

As a judge in north Sno­homish Coun­ty seeks anoth­er four years on the bench, the local legal estab­lish­ment is lin­ing up behind her chal­lenger — and urg­ing vot­ers to do the same.

Kris­ten Olbrechts ran unop­posed four years ago for judge in Arling­ton-based Cas­cade Dis­trict Court. This cam­paign promis­es to be hard­er. It is prov­ing to be pricey and large­ly self-financed.

Chal­lenger Jen­nifer Ran­court, a Sno­homish Coun­ty pub­lic defend­er and chair­woman of the state Clemen­cy & Par­dons Board, has shored up over­whelm­ing sup­port from the county’s sit­ting and retired judges, along with oth­er key local legal fig­ures. The county’s oth­er sev­en dis­trict court races are all uncontested.

Read the whole thing.

Our sec­ond shout-out goes to The Dai­ly World in Aberdeen, which pub­lished a sto­ry look­ing at the race for Grays Har­bor Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court.

The two can­di­dates for Grays Har­bor Supe­ri­or Court Judge Posi­tion 3 dis­cussed their qual­i­fi­ca­tions with The Dai­ly World edi­to­r­i­al board on Thurs­day and dif­fered wide­ly in their views about a recent con­tro­ver­sial attempt­ed abduc­tion case cur­rent­ly being appealed.

The case was decid­ed by cur­rent Judge Ray Kahler.

His chal­lenger is David Mis­tachkin, a lawyer and part­ner with the Aberdeen firm of Ingram, Zelasko & Good­win. Mis­tachkin served as a Grays Har­bor Dis­trict Court Judge (2015–2016) and often works as a defense attor­ney. Kahler was appoint­ed to the court last Jan­u­ary to fill the seat of retired Judge Mark McCauley.

Kahler was an attor­ney and for­mer part­ner at Strit­mat­ter Kessler Whe­lan (offices in Hoquiam and Seat­tle) for twen­ty-one years pri­or to his appoint­ment, work­ing most­ly in the area of per­son­al injury cases.

Read the whole thing.

In addi­tion to that sto­ry, The Dai­ly World also pub­lished a Q&A with each of the can­di­dates plus an edi­to­r­i­al lay­ing out their ratio­nale for back­ing Kahler.

Bra­vo to them for pro­vid­ing this cov­er­age to their readers!

Our third shout-out goes to the Cash­mere Val­ley Record for cov­er­ing the judi­cial con­tests that Chelan Coun­ty vot­ers will have to sort out this year.

Two by two they were intro­duced, but not to debate nor to enter an ark, but sim­ply to answer a few ques­tions and give their open­ing and clos­ing state­ments. It was­n’t exact­ly a barn-burn­er of a night, but it did give a chance for the peo­ple to see and com­pare can­di­dates for Chelan Coun­ty Dis­trict and Supe­ri­or Court judges.

Most of the audi­ence of around fifty were par­ti­san to one or anoth­er can­di­dates with plac­ards, T‑shirts and var­i­ous para­pher­na­lia extant in the gallery. Wenatchee Val­ley Cham­ber of Com­merce Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Shiloh (Schauer) Burgess intro­duced the for­mat and end­ed the evening at the com­mu­ni­ty room of the Pybus Pub­lic Mar­ket, Thurs­day, Oct. 18.

Read the whole thing.

Our fourth shout out goes to the Skag­it Val­ley Her­ald for cov­er­ing their com­mu­ni­ty’s Supe­ri­or Court race between Rose­mary Kaholoku­la and Lau­ra Riquelme.

Skag­it Coun­ty Chief Crim­i­nal Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor Rose­mary Kaholoku­la is chal­leng­ing Judge Lau­ra Riquelme for her seat on the Skag­it Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court bench.

The win­ner of the elec­tion will serve the remain­ing two years of the term of Michael Rick­ert, who retired in 2017.

Riquelme has twice been appoint­ed a Skag­it Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court judge by Gov. Jay Inslee, once in 2016 and again in 2017, to fill vacan­cies cre­at­ed by retir­ing judges Susan Cook and Rickert.

Pri­or to being appoint­ed, the Mount Ver­non res­i­dent served Skag­it Coun­ty for more than a decade — first as a pros­e­cu­tor and then as a pub­lic defend­er where she rep­re­sent­ed low-income clients.

Read the whole thing.

Our fifth and final shout out goes to the Spokesman-Review of Spokane for pub­lish­ing a com­pre­hen­sive piece on their Supe­ri­or Court race back in Sep­tem­ber, pit­ting attor­ney Den­nis Cronin against Judge Michelle Szambelan.

Both can­di­dates have a sto­ried his­to­ry in the coun­ty and as such have received wide­spread sup­port in the non­par­ti­san race.

Szam­be­lan, who has received endorse­ments from nine sit­ting Supe­ri­or Court judges, all eight Dis­trict Court judges and her three ex-col­leagues at Munic­i­pal Court, also has earned the sup­port of May­or David Con­don, City Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Ben Stuckart and Coun­cil­women Can­dace Mumm and Lori Kin­n­ear, accord­ing to her website.

“I’ve had real­ly good expe­ri­ences with Judge Szam­be­lan as a Munic­i­pal Court judge. I think she’s excel­lent,” said Stuckart on Thurs­day. “But I also think Den­nis Cronin is great as well. I think he’s real­ly knowledgeable.”

Cronin, mean­while, has won over many local labor unions, the coun­ty Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and local activists, includ­ing Pas­tor Wal­ter Kendricks of the Morn­ing Star Mis­sion­ary Bap­tist Church. He also has endorse­ments from a long list of local attor­neys, as does Szambelan.

The Spokesman-Review has also had the best cov­er­age of any paper in the state of our State Supreme Court race. Their edi­tors and reporters were pro­duc­ing much-need­ed jour­nal­ism long before oth­er media out­lets took an inter­est in the race.

I hope I’ve suc­ceed­ed in this post in demon­strat­ing the val­ue that our sur­viv­ing dai­ly and week­ly news­pa­pers have to our com­mu­ni­ties. With­out them, we’d have pret­ty much no report­ing what­so­ev­er about crit­i­cal judi­cial con­tests at the coun­ty and local lev­el. Online-only media are sim­ply not a replace­ment for local news­pa­pers and can’t always pro­vide the kind of high qual­i­ty cov­er­age that news­pa­pers do. Please sub­scribe to your local paper if it’s not a free week­ly, and help keep it in business.

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