Judgeship Election/Primary Election Civics

Dear Group,

Primary Election Civics–why bother now when there are only two candidates and we know we’re going to see them again on the General Election ballot? Candidates, political organizations, and donors scrutinize the results. Does this candidate have a chance? How is the overall turnout? What is the level of enthusiasm? Is it worth my (our) investing time, money, and energy in this candidate for the General Election? Is there “buzz”? Is there momentum? Answers to all these questions will affect what happens in November.

Judgeship Elections–A puzzling part of your Primary ballot.

In Spokane County the Primary Ballot presents us with a choice of three “District Court Judge Position 1” candidates, Lynden P. Smithson, Randy Arnold Brandt, and Patrick T. Johnson. 

Civics: So why is there just one judgeship contest on the primary ballot? Simple answer: It is the only judgeship position for which Spokane County voters get a vote this year that has three contenders. In those cases where there are only two contenders the choice appears on the General Election ballot only (Dennis Cronin v. Michelle Szambelan for Spokane Superior Court Judge Pos. 10 is the one for which I’ve seen yard signs). The two top vote getters of this District Court three-way we see on the current Primary ballot will appear on the General Election ballot in November. In contrast, General Election Ballot in Spokane County will have 13 judgeships up for a vote (8 of 8 Spokane District Court, 1 of 12 Spokane Superior Court, 1 Washington State Court of Appeals, and 3 Washington State Supreme Court judgeships). Of course, only some sitting judges have a challenger.

So what about this local race for Spokane County District Court? (click here for a great orientation to the Washington State Court System). Here’s the short version from wikipedia on District Courts:

These are courts of limited jurisdiction that hear traffic infractions, criminal traffic citations, misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors, civil cases with an amount in controversy less than $100,000, and small claims suits.[2] The District Court conducts trials and other attendant hearings.[3] District Court judges are elected and serve four-year terms.

The District Court system is ground zero for citizen contact with the legal system. It’s important. These are the judges any one of us might encounter after a misstep.

So whom to chose in this race? I cast my vote for Lynden Smithson although that is a close call for me between Smithson and Patrick Johnson,. You can glean some sense of demeanor and history by clicking the names that I’ve linked to interviews on Spokane Talks with Sue Lani Madsen. Here is the link to the Spokesman’s overview article. I specifically will not vote for Brandt. In 2014 Brandt was the first incumbent Spokane County judge to lose a re-election bid to the bench since 1990. He has been accused of deception for re-using yard signs saying “Judge Brandt,” suggesting, incorrectly, that he is still a judge. Finally, Brandt is fervently recommended by WeBelieveWeVote, an organization that uses criteria more fitting of Republican partisan politics (gun rights, border security, and support of the electoral college system, for example) more than criteria I recognize from the Christian tradition (United Methodism) in which I grew up. Their endorsement of this man for a “non-partisan” judgeship I see as a red flag. 

I would like to see a choice in November between Smithson and Johnson, at which point I can look again.

Keep to the high ground,