Patrick Johnson emerged as front-runner in the race for Spokane County District Court Judge, securing 39.5 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary election.
Johnson was one of three challengers vying to become Spokane County’s new district court judge after Judge Vance Peterson announced his retirement at the end of the year.
Johnson – who has been a prosecuting attorney since 1998 with the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office – had previously received endorsements from Peterson, all 12 superior court judges, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell.
Johnson has spent more than 17 years working for the U.S. Army Reserve’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps as a major and defense attorney. He also helps run the county’s veterans court – a program that provides substance abuse classes, rehabilitation and counseling to veterans who commit crimes.
Randy Brandt, who served in district court from 2011 to 2014 before losing his seat in the 2014 election, secured 35.8 percent of the vote to move on to November’s general election. Lynden Smithson – who has served as Spokane’s assistant city prosecutor for more than 15 years, and is in charge of the domestic violence unit – came in third, with 23.5 percent of the vote.
Brandt is the only candidate with experience on the bench. He was a district court judge from 2011 to 2014, and spent many years as a court commissioner.
He’s touted that experience while campaigning, even referencing himself as a judge on his election signs.
Johnson said he wants to focus on empowering veterans court, while Brandt has said he’s not interested in “change for change’s sake” because the district court has run well for several years. Smithson had expressed interest in implementing a form of pre-trial monitoring similar to superior court – where people charged with misdemeanors could remain out-of-custody while awaiting trial.
Johnson garnered more than $31,000 in campaign contributions leading up to the primary election. Brandt raised more than $13,000 in contributions, according to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission, while Smithson secured more than $14,000.