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No sale

This isn’t a runaway; at this writing, the Alexander-Groen contest for Washington Supreme Court isn’t yet settled. But while a broad swath of opinion suggested that the swampingly large pileof money supporting John Groen’s effort to oust incumbent Chief Justice Gerry Alexander would be enough to prevail, indications now are that … it was not.

Gerry Alexander Several possible conclusions can be drawn from this. We’ll highlight two that could be significant for the election, and the election cycle, ahead.

One is that the message got through that a narrow band of interests was the basis of the Groen candidacy, and that was wrong. This may be somewhat unfair to Groen, who likely has interests and abilities well beyond those of concern to his supporters. But it isn’t unfair to the movement that backed him, and to them this result – so far (with thousands of ballots yet to come), an Alexander win at about 53% – serves as a rebuke.

Separately, this race together with the other one hotly contested, involving Justice Susan Owens and her main chellenger, state Senator Stephen Johnson, should generate concern to Washington’s Republicans. The judicial positions are of course nonpartisan, but to a considerable degree the lines behind the incumbents and the challengers seem to have matched with partisan lines – Democrats probably voted strongly for the incumbents and Republicans for the challengers.

Considering that neither party had within its own ranks any strong primary contests (the U.S. Senate primaries were non-events), the judicial battles served to a degree as useful surrogates. in that battle, the challengers (the Republican side) had significant advantages. In seat 8 (Alexander-Groen) the challenger had a huge money advantage, and in seat 2 (Owens-Johnson) the incumbent was considered the most liberal member of the court and his challenger won a raft of newspaper endorsements, along with other advantages. Neither were enough. To be sure: The Owens-Johnson battle isn’t over, since she didn’t reach 50% of the vote (other candidates were also running) and will face Johnson again in November. But the margin at present is 45.6% to 32.6% – a big lead, hardly a promising start for Johnson.

An early indicator for November 7 in Washington? Wouldn’t be surprised.

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