Washington Supreme Court
6:00 am
Fri July 20, 2012

For Washington Supreme Court Justice, "Primary" Race Is Final

Washington Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez was appointed to the state’s high court six months ago. Now he’s up for reelection.

His opponent is Bruce Danielson, a Kitsap county attorney who has declined to campaign. The race will be decided in the August 7th primary, and Gonzalez says he’s rushing to build name recognition. KUOW’s Amy Radil reports.

Washington Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez is seeking reelection. He has the distinction of having been endorsed by BOTH gubernatorial candidates Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee. He’s also been broadly endorsed by the state’s newspapers and rated “exceptionally well qualified” by numerous bar associations.

His opponent, Kitsap county attorney Bruce Danielson, has kept a low profile, declining to raise money or make public appearances. The King County Bar Association says Danielson “refused to cooperate” in their rating process.

Still, Gonzalez is nervous about his reelection effort. One reason is that judicial races can be decided in the primary –- whoever gets the majority of the votes on August 7th wins outright. But these races often receive low voter turnout. And Gonzalez says the state and many counties declined to send out printed voters’ pamphlets for this election.

“My race will be decided in the primary and only a few counties are mailing voters’ pamphlets that include my race," Gonzalez says. "The vast majority of the state -– the entire eastern half of the state –- the voters will get a ballot with two names and no more information. They’ll have to look for it on their own.”

At a recent candidate forum sponsored by KCTS and the League of Women Voters, the candidates were asked to name their legal heroes. One candidate cited his own father -– Gonzalez says he was raised by a single mother, and doesn’t have that luxury.

“I am the first one in my family to go to college, so I don’t have any lawyers in my family to look to….”

But Gonzalez went on to work as a domestic violence prosecutor for the City of Seattle, and then for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“I did the child prostitution cases for the Western District. I was the hate crimes investigator and coordinator for the district," Gonzalez says. "I also prosecuted Ahmed Ressam, the “millennium bomber” as he was called.”

Gonzalez then spent ten years as a judge in King County Superior Court, before his appointment to the State Supreme Court. He says he hopes to be reelected so he can hear upcoming cases on school funding, water rights, and the two-thirds vote rule for state spending.

For his part, challenger Bruce Danielson says in his candidate filing that he’s concerned about the influence of special interest money and politics in the judicial system. He says he has 28 years of trial experience in superior court, and has received commendations for his pro bono legal work.

Danielson did not respond to interview requests.

Copyright 2012 KUOW