Opinion

Fairhurst, Charles Johnson for court; other state races

Voters face two contested Washington State Supreme Court races on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The Review endorses incumbent Charles Johnson for Supreme Court position 4, and Mary Fairhurst for position 3, an open seat.

Two-term incumbent Charles Johnson has earned the respect of colleagues for his expertise (he’s penned several hundred Supreme Court opinions) and balance on the bench, owing perhaps to his legal experience in areas as diverse as family law and building and real estate issues. Challenger Pam Loginsky has offered no compelling reason to unseat the incumbent, who deserves a third term.

The other race pits challenger Jim Johnson (and voters should be careful not to confuse the two Johnsons) against assistant attorney general Mary Fairhurst.

Jim Johnson, who has represented a number of high-profile, conservative interests – Tim Eyman and the state building industry, to name two – asks us not to judge him by his clients. Indeed, we know clients hire lawyers, not the other way around. But while Johnson says he would be an even-handed judge, he refused to participate in the King County Bar Association’s judicial poll, citing its “liberal bias.” If Johnson can’t make his case with his own peers, we doubt he’ll do so through his performance on the bench. We’ll go with Fairhurst.

Voters also face five statewide ballot measures. In addition to Referendum 51 (the transportation package, which the Review has already endorsed), we favor the two referenda and oppose the two citizen initiatives.

House Joint Resolution 4220 would permit fire districts to present their budgets to voters on a four- or six-year cycle, rather than annually. It’s an excellent proposal – fire boards should be protecting the public, not worrying about elections. Not only should this measure pass, but the longer budget cycle should be extended by the Legislature to include schools and other junior taxing districts. Vote Yes.

R-53 asks the voters to approve an overhaul of the state unemployment compensation tax schedule, which the state Legislature has already passed. The Legislature boosted taxes on seasonal employers (more of whose workers file for benefits), and cut taxes on year-round employers. This issue was thoroughly aired in Olympia, with lobbying armies present for both sides; it earned the support of labor and most business interests. The Legislature made the right decision, which voters should endorse by voting Yes on R-53.

Initiative 776 is this year’s Tim Eyman contribution. While he talks about empowering voters, this initiative does just the opposite, allowing voters statewide to repeal car-tab surcharges approved at the polls in several counties. This measure demonstrates that Eyman is about power, not principle. Vote No on I-776.

Finally, there is Initiative 790, dealing with police and fire pensions. While the uniformed services claim the only issue is “having some say” in management of their pension fund, the initiative as written is seriously flawed from a funding standpoint. The state actuary calculates that the measure would allow (and possibly require) huge pension boosts at public expense, costing state and local taxpayers as much as $1.4 billion over the next five years. Vote No on I-790.

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