In a stunning result, embattled Clark County Superior Court Judge John Wulle lost his re-election bid Tuesday night, the first time a Clark County judge has been unseated in 37 years.
Wulle trailed Vancouver private practice lawyer David Gregerson by 11 percentage points, according to preliminary election results. Gregerson garnered 55 percent, or 22,910 votes, over Wulle's 44 percent, or 18,560.
Judicial races are decided in the primary if one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, making Gregerson the winner.
Judges seldom run opposed, and when they do, they nearly always win. The last time a sitting Clark County judge lost an election came in 1975, when Superior Court Judge Dean Morgan was appointed to the bench by the governor, but failed to win election later that year against Tom Lodge.
Tuesday night, Gregerson, who had a campaign party at Brickhouse Bar & Grill, said he was "thrilled" with the results.
"I'm just really proud of the campaign we ran," Gregerson said, adding that his campaigners worked the hard-fought race from multiple angles. "And I really believed in my campaign."
"I feel it was a somewhat historic race," Gregerson added.
Wulle, whose wife posted on his campaign Facebook page that the judge planned to head to bed early Tuesday, did not answer a phone call to his home from The Columbian.
Controversy clouded the judge's bid to retain his seat. In February, the Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct charged Wulle with violating codes of conduct by engaging in discourteous and undignified courtroom behavior. The board cited four court hearings between 2009 and last year in which Wulle was accused of rude behavior.
Wulle has a hearing Aug. 27 before the judicial board to determine if he should be disciplined. Potential sanctions range from admonishment, or a written warning, to a censure with a recommendation for the judge's suspension or removal.
Wulle, 61, has been a Superior Court judge since 2000. Previously, he served on the District Court bench.
Gregerson, a Vancouver native and lawyer for 20 years, specializes in civil law and is the principal of the law firm Gregerson & Langsdorf. He said his firm also handles family law and criminal defense.
In addition, Gregerson, 44, has served as a pro tem judge in Clark County District Court for eight years, filling in when judges are out of the office.
He beat Wulle in fundraising, $27,259 to $10,275.
Gregerson won't be sworn in until January.
Superior Court judges earn $148,836 a year.