Candidates for the state Supreme Court justice position 6 were in Vancouver Monday, sparring primarily over incumbent Richard Sanders’ job performance.
His two opponents, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff and former Court of Appeals Judge Charlie Wiggins, accused the 15-year justice of having an overt political agenda — Sanders is known for his libertarian views — and for making decisions they question. Specifically, they say they believe he favors defendants in criminal cases.
When it was his turn to talk during the nearly hourlong Columbian editorial board meeting, Sanders spent much of it defending himself.
“As you can see, Wiggins is running a negative campaign,” Sanders said, before listing off accusations that he felt needed explanation, such as the barb about being anti-prosecution.
In response, Wiggins gave an emphatic “I’m not negative,” and said he was simply scrutinizing the justice’s decision pattern, a crucial issue of the campaign.
Once the third candidate got his chance to speak, Chushcoff zeroed in on why he was running: He wants to make the position less political, though noting he enjoys his current job.
“I’m happy where I’m at,” he said. “I love it.”
Though there are three candidates, the race could be decided in the Aug. 17 primary. That’s because for statewide nonpartisan offices, a candidate who wins more than 50 percent of the votes in the primary is the only one listed on the Nov. 2 ballot.
The candidates also spent time listing their qualifications. Here’s a rundown:
o Incumbent Richard Sanders: Before being elected to the Supreme Court in 1995, he practiced law for 26 years and served as an adjunct professor at the University of Washington School of Law. He says he’s written more opinions than any other justice. He has garnered endorsements from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Association of Washington Business and the Washington Farm Bureau, among many others.
o Charlie Wiggins: He was appointed a Court of Appeals judge in 1994, but failed to earn re-election in 1995. He also has served as a pro tem Superior Court judge in King and Jefferson counties. Currently, he is a Bainbridge Island lawyer, specializing in appellate work. He has picked up endorsements from 30 prosecutors, the Law Enforcement Administrators of Washington (Sheriffs and Police Chiefs) and the State Labor Council, among a number of others.
o Bryan Chushcoff: He is presiding judge for Pierce County Superior Court, the state’s second-largest trial court with a budget of nearly $14 million. Before becoming a judge in 1996, Chushcoff was a lawyer for 19 years. He said he hasn’t collected any endorsements because he jumped into the race “38 days ago and there aren’t many endorsements left to be had.”