Neal Q. Rielly hasn’t had time to enjoy his new job.
He began campaigning seven weeks ago - the day he was appointed Spokane County Superior Court judge.
The hard work paid off, with Rielly headed to victory Tuesday over his better-known challenger - state Rep. Dennis Dellwo, according to late election returns.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Rielly said. “I truly see myself, in my heart, as a public servant.”
During a furious, abbreviated campaign, he rang doorbells, enlisted tremendous support from lawyers and judges, and stunned his Democratic opponent by winning a joint labor union endorsement.
Rielly also outspent Dellwo 2-to-1 ($65,000 to $30,000), pumping $50,000 of his own money into the race.
At public appearances, the candidates were peppered with questions about how tough they’d be on crime.
Rielly, 51, presented himself as a known commodity on the bench, thanks to his six years as a Superior Court commissioner, presiding over divorcing couples and juvenile delinquents.
“It doesn’t make sense to replace a good, experienced judge with a good, experienced legislator,” he said.
Disillusioned with the Legislature after 13 years, Dellwo set his sights on becoming a hometown judge.
He was frustrated when his political ally, Gov. Mike Lowry, twice passed him over for judicial appointments this year, the latest going to Rielly on Sept. 20.
Rather than keep waiting, Dellwo, 50, decided to challenge the fledgling incumbent.
After a string of easy victories in Spokane’s 3rd District, Dellwo was surprised by his lopsided defeat Tuesday.
“I’m viewed more as a legislator than a lawyer,” he said, “and that’s unfortunate.”
Dellwo, who retains his legislative seat, is a partner in Winston & Cashatt, a downtown law firm. He has seldom appeared in court in recent years while championing health-care reform.
Rielly, who earns $99,000 a year, fills the remaining year of retired Judge Harold Clarke’s term.
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