Supremely High Stakes
This Year's Washington State Supreme Court Drama, in Brief
Hardly anyone pays attention to them, but Washington State Supreme Court elections remain one of the most important political happenings in this state. Don't believe it? Consider how important the state supreme court's 2012 McCleary decision has become in forcing our do-nothing state legislature to finally come up with the billions needed to fix our broken public education system (a system that, until McCleary, our state legislators were largely content to let stay broken).
Unfortunately, an enduring problem in these races is that voters nod off or give up before they get far enough down the ballot to vote on high court candidates. Or, lacking information, they just pick the candidate with the name that sounds nicest to them. Really. That's how we ended up with Justice Charles W. Johnson, who in 1990 was a legal nobody running against a widely respected and widely endorsed incumbent with the unfortunate name of Keith M. Callow.
So here are a few quick reasons not to nod off as we head toward this year's supreme court elections in November. One: The candidate with the most interesting name out there, John "Zamboni" Scannell, turns out to be a disbarred lawyer who reportedly earned his nickname from driving an ice-smoothing machine for a hockey team in Seattle. He's running—wait for it—against a woman who helped disbar him, Justice Debra Stephens. She's finishing out her first full term on the court this year and is considered one of the more liberal justices.
Two: Justice Mary Yu, appointed by the governor to fill a sudden court vacancy earlier this year, is at once the first out lesbian and the first Asian American on the high court. Surprisingly, Justice Yu drew zero opponents for the November election. Still, she'll be on the November ballot, and a strong vote for her would set the stage for her 2016 reelection race.
Finally, Justice Charles W. Johnson faces—where have we heard this before?—a relatively unknown lawyer named Eddie Yoon, who reportedly only recently registered to vote in Pierce County, where he has a home. Johnson, who has become a valued member of the court since his surprise 1990 election, was in the McCleary majority.