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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 28, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 44
Beware stealth Supreme Court candidates
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Beware stealth Supreme Court candidates

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A cabal of political conservatives, religious extremists, anti-tax campaigners, and tech billionaires is backing a group of challengers hoping to unseat three sitting justices of the Washington Supreme Court.

In Supreme Court Position 1, David DeWolf is running against incumbent Justice Mary Yu. Position 2 features Greg Zempel running to replace Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, and in Position 6, Dave Larson is challenging Justice Charlie Wiggins.

Even a cursory look at the challengers' voters' guide statements reveals a slew of right-wing code words that spell bad news for LGBT folks.

DeWolf, for example, favors 'restraint' and says, 'We need judges who will do their job - no more and no less.' Translation: 'We need judges who won't expand rights for the LGBT community or other marginalized communities.'

Zempel says 'our state Supreme Court has become too political.' Same translation.

Larson 'believes in judicial restraint.' Same translation.

All the challengers are supported by for-profit initiative promoter Tim Eyman, who regularly sends out mass tweets on their behalf. Eyman has a long-standing grudge against the Supreme Court, which struck down several of his unconstitutional initiatives, and he hopes to replace the incumbent justices with more favorable ones.

DeWolf is endorsed by the NRA, and his website proudly proclaims his support for the Discovery Institute, a pseudo-scientific think tank that promotes the idea of 'intelligent design.'

In a statement to SEAMEC, Zempel claims that he has 'had the benefit of knowing and having in my life a number of gay and lesbian friends.' He also states that 'Referendum 74 is the law of the land and would be fully supported as such by myself.'

Nevertheless, Zempel is endorsed by a right-wing Christian group called We Believe, We Vote, based in the Tri-Cities. The group's 'Five Guiding Principles' for endorsing candidates includes the following:

'The marriage of one man and one woman is the natural foundation of all human society, and the means by which children ought to be brought into the world and taught the basic values of our civilization.

'Government has a duty to recognize and protect the family and must not grant alternative relationships the same status and privileges.

'Families, not public education, should decide what, when, and how children are introduced to controversial subjects dealing with moral issues.'

Zempel's staff says that We Believe, We Vote did not ask for anything 'in writing' from the candidate and that Zempel does not agree with their statement. Nevertheless, he has not repudiated their support, and their endorsement is still displayed prominently on his website.

Zempel is also supported by the charter school group Stand For Children, which gave him $116,000 in hopes of unseating Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, who authored the decision declaring charter schools unconstitutional.

The primary donors include Connie Ballmer, wife of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; Reed Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix; and Vulcan Inc., owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Vulcan and Ballmer were also among the primary backers of the ballot initiative that authorized charter schools and was subsequently voided by the high court.

As for Zempel's opponent, yes, Madsen authored the infamous decision in Andersen v. King County that delayed marriage equality in this state for six years. But she is also the author of numerous progressive rulings striking down Tim Eyman-sponsored initiatives and upholding funding for public schools.

Getting down to practicalities, Yu and Madsen are almost certain to win their races. The most at risk of the three incumbent justices is thought to be Charlie Wiggins, who was first elected to the Supreme Court in 2010.

Again, a constellation of billionaire charter school supporters and business groups - Steve and Connie Ballmer, Vulcan Inc., Bill Gates, and the Building Industry Association of Washington, among others - have put $550,000 behind a PAC called Citizens for Working Courts to support Wiggins' challenger, Dave Larson.

According to the Seattle Times, Gates and a handful of other donors have poured an additional $900,000 into a late-campaign ad barrage to defeat Wiggins, and the incumbent justice is also the target of a separate PAC, Judicial Integrity Washington, funded by Clark County billionaire Ken Fisher, Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman Jr., and Seattle Mariners president John Stanton.

The PAC has spent $350,000 on Willie Horton-style TV ads accusing Wiggins of releasing a convicted child molester. The ad is so over the top that a group of prominent legal experts has demanded that it be taken down.

The demand to remove the offensive ad was signed by former US Attorney John McKay, retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, former King County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Roe, and Seattle University Law School Professor Dave Boerner.

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