SEATTLE – Former Washington Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders has a chance to get his old job back.
As more votes were counted Monday, King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Hilyer conceded that he wasn’t going to be able to overtake Sanders’ second-place finish in last week’s primary.
That means Sanders will face Seattle appeals lawyer Sheryl Gordon McCloud in the November general election for the seat being vacated by retiring Justice Tom Chambers, while Hilyer will have to find something else to do. He was up for re-election this year but opted to run for the high court instead.
“It has been a great honor and privilege to be a Superior Court judge these past twelve years,” he said in an emailed statement Monday evening. “I am proud of the campaign we ran and am grateful to all of my supporters, and I respect the choices made by the voters. I’m taking some time to rest and reflect on my next challenge.”
McCloud had collected 29.1 percent of the vote, followed by 28.4 percent for Sanders and 27.3 percent for Hilyer. Former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg was in last place with 15.2 percent.
Sanders served 15 years on the court before losing a re-election bid in 2010 to experienced appellate lawyer Charlie Wiggins by just 13,000 votes out of nearly 2 million cast. During his tenure, Sanders developed a reputation as a libertarian who often sided with defendants in criminal cases, something that earned him the ire of prosecutors around the state. He also was known for occasionally making intemperate remarks.
Despite his time on the court, he was the lowest rated by several organizations that evaluate judicial candidates. The King County Bar Association called him “well qualified” and all of his opponents “exceptionally well qualified.”
“I’m glad there’s a candidate for liberty in the final round,” Sanders said Monday night. “I have always tried to respect and defend the rights of Washingtonians from all walks of life.”
McCloud has devoted most of her career to helping criminal defendants appeal their convictions.
She said she is not only devoted to constitutional rights, but has the better temperament to be a justice, and that she’s the candidate most likely to persuade other justices to join her views – an allusion to Sanders’ frequent dissents in high court opinions. “I’m grateful to have been the winner out of the primary, and I think we’ve got a fair fight on my hands,” McCloud said. “My campaign has been about my track record of protecting constitutional rights and individual rights.”
Hilyer raised far more money than anyone else in the campaign – $205,000 to Sanders’ $125,000, McCloud’s $118,000 and Ladenburg’s $74,000.