The school year begins, the rain starts falling, the days grow shorter, and suddenly you are holding a ballot in your hands with a bunch of names on it you've never heard of, running for offices you didn't even know existed.
Relax. While you were at the beach, we spent all summer locked in sweaty, dark rooms with candidates.
There is no presidential election this year, no governor's race, not even any seats in Washington's congressional delegation that are competitive, but there is a lot of important stuff on this ballot.
The ballot begins by making us choose one of the nine guardians of our precious state constitution—a new justice for state Supreme Court—and ends by asking us to do something to address our terrible housing crisis—the Seattle Housing Levy. Those two races alone would make voting a vital exercise, but there's more in between. Here's our extended cheat sheet for Seattle-area races with Web links to more coverage for particular contests.
We have endorsed candidates only in contested primaries.
WASHINGTON STATE SUPREME COURT
Six-year terms; the top two vote-getters advance to November's general election, unless someone wins it all by receiving more than 50 percent of the vote.
An open seat; incumbent Justice Charles Z. Smith is retiring.
* Our choice: King County Superior Court Judge Michael Spearman makes this race no contest. Spearman combines the insider strength of 10 years of judicial experience and more than 100 endorsements from other judges with a clear understanding that the post-Sept. 11 political climate demands eternal vigilance from our judicial branch against any who would weaken our constitution in order to "save" our freedom.
The other choices: Jim Johnson is a passionate conservative we might choose to defend our property or voting rights, but he isn't our first choice for being a judge. Stan Morse wins the award for the most interesting r鳵m鬠including writing about world travels in a wheelchair, but he doesn't seem all that engaged by the law. Mary Fairhurst's career as a prosecutor in the attorney general's civil division is fine public service, but it doesn't inspire us to vote for her.
* Our choice: Stick with the incumbent, Charles W. Johnson. Twelve years ago, an unknown Johnson shocked the legal community by beating a sitting chief justice. Since then, he has proven himself up to the task, winning praise from a wide variety of legal observers on all sides of the courtroom.
The others: Doug Schafer is on a worthy crusade to improve the ethics of the legal system, but a Supreme Court race is a lousy place to wage it. Pamela Loginsky believes Johnson has been too slow in considering rule changes regarding speedy trials. We prefer that our highest court be deliberative.
WASHINGTON STATE COURT OF APPEALS
A six-year term; the primary winner's name will appear alone on November's ballot.
DIVISION 1, DISTRICT 1, POSITION 5
* Our choice: This race is so one-sided it's scary. The incumbent, Judge H. Joseph Coleman, has been a judge for 26 years, including 18 in this position. Former Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge calls him "one of the best jurists in the state." Spending time with Coleman, one comes away with serious respect for his legal intellect and his engagement with the law.
The other choice: Jeanette Burrage performed poorly as a King County Superior Court judge, earning special infamy for threatening to sanction women lawyers who didn't wear skirts. There's no credible case for promoting her.
WASHINGTON STATE LEGISLATURE
Representatives serve two years; senators serve four. In the Seattle area, the Democratic Party is so dominant that the victor in the Democratic primary is practically assured of election in November.
11TH DISTRICT (BEACON HILL, RENTON, TUKWILA)
STATE REPRESENTATIVE, POSITION 1
* Our choice: Send Natalie Reber back to Olympia, this time as a legislator. Reber, a lobbyist for the Girl Scouts and public interests, combines an insider's knowledge with a deep commitment to social services and gender justice that is irresistible. We think she will be a voice for the voiceless that other legislators will actually enjoy listening to.
The other choices: Roger Valdez has the intellect and experience to make a fine lawmaker but he doesn't seem to want the job all that much. Zack Hudgins is a well-meaning, connected, hardworking, ambitious young pol, so his "I'm-just-an-average-working-stiff" message strains our credulity. Azziem Underwood and Robin Jones are not serious competitors.
32ND DISTRICT (SHORELINE, EDMONDS, LAKE FOREST PARK)
STATE REPRESENTATIVE, POSITION 1
* Our choice: We're with Maralyn Chase when it comes to the stewardship of our urban environment, the need for comprehensive tax reform, and protecting our state's small businesses. Since Chase wears her heart on her sleeve and shoots from the hip, she can appear at times in danger of mortally wounding herself. But ultimately her deep roots in activism for peace and social justice will keep her grounded.
The other choice: Nobody can question Kevin Grossman's work ethic or good intentions as a local official in Shoreline. He does, however, appear to have a terrible blind spot about the rights of his opponents to use the system to fight against his efforts.
37TH DISTRICT (RAINIER VALLEY, CENTRAL DISTRICT, SKYWAY)
* Our choice: Incumbent Sen. Adam Kline had a terrific session in last year's Legislature. As chair of the Judiciary Committee, he fought two ill-advised assaults on our civil liberties in the wake of Sept. 11, one by the attorney general and the governor to seek new, overly broad powers for law enforcement and the other by Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, to expand police wiretapping authority. He also shepherded through the Senate a sensible, long-overdue measure to put fewer drug addicts in jail and more into mandatory treatment. In his sixth year, Kline has really hit his stride and deserves re-election.
The other choice: We have endorsed Dawn Mason, a former state representative, many times in the past. She would be an excellent public official, but she has chosen the wrong opponent this time.
STATE REPRESENTATIVE, POSITION 2
* Our choice: Angela Toussaint started fighting for justice at recess in kindergarten; she shows no signs of slowing down. Whether Toussaint has been advocating better supermarkets in the Rainier Valley, better education for poor and minority students, or fairer distribution of city services, she has always been on the right side of the issues. Voters from the 37th would be well-served by her exciting combination of moxie and charm.
The other choices: Eric Pettigrew is already a smooth, sincere advocate for his district as head of the local Chamber and seems better suited to that role than being a lawmaker. Cheryl Chow needs to find a medium other than politics to express her deep passion for education and the welfare of children.
43RD DISTRICT (CAPITOL HILL, WALLINGFORD, U DISTRICT)
STATE REPRESENTATIVE, POSITION 2
* Our choice: Give Frank Chopp, speaker of the House, credit for political smarts. He is the one Democratic leader who is trying to figure out how to govern in the midst of a tax revolt. His solution—asking for voter approval of new transportation taxes in Referendum 51—might not be successful. He is, however, mindful of the political reality that Washington voters have said loud and clear that they want that power. In addition, Chopp's commitment to helping the poor is much needed in this economic downturn.
The other candidate: Eleanor Owen calls herself a protest candidate. Running for elective office is not an effective means of protest.
KING COUNTY JUDICIAL RACES
KING COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT, POSITION 5
* Our choice: We're going to take a chance and believe that Steve Gonzalez's credentials are well deserved, despite the fact that he is not a dynamic campaigner. He presents a pretty amazing set of credentials, including winning the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of Justice and prosecuting Ahmed Ressam, among other high-profile cases.
The other choice: David Larson brings a healthy dose of reform energy to this race. He loses our endorsement only because his opponent is so well regarded.
KING COUNTY DISTRICT COURT JUDGE, POSITION 3
* Our choice: Art Chapman recognizes that our justice system has done a poor job of addressing the problems of the mentally ill and the drug addicted. His experience running Seattle Municipal Court's mental-health court will be an invaluable tool on the King County district bench. King County will be well served by his innovative spirit and his sharp intellect.
The other choices: Ron Mattson doesn't have the temperament to be a judge. Susan Noonan can't match Chapman's experience and originality.
CITY OF SEATTLE
PROPOSITION 1 (SEATTLE HOUSING LEVY)
* Our choice: Can you vote for this thing twice? Seattle's housing crisis shows no sign of abating, despite the recession. In fact, it may get even worse. Drastic structural changes are needed in order to address the problems of housing for the long term, but they are nowhere in sight. What we have on hand is the housing levy. Since 1981, the housing levies have been a remarkable government success story: No terrible cost overruns, no scandals—just the delivery of thousands of units of low-income housing. We can't take it for granted at a time when thousands of people are still living on our streets and thousands of cheap apartments and homes are lost to gentrification, abandonment, and demolition every year. The cost is low—$49 per year for the average homeowner—and the payoff is very high indeed. Vote Yes.
For more information on these races, see the 2002 Election Coverage button on our Web site, www.seattleweekly.com.