Spokane County District Court Judge Gregory Tripp has many advantages in his race for re-election.
Not only is he the incumbent – running for his fifth full term – he also is running against a challenger who is purposefully limiting his campaign.
James Richard Reierson, a former Kootenai County deputy prosecutor, declined to participate in the Spokane County Bar Association’s candidate evaluation process, opted against printing candidate signs and has held his campaign funding to $5,000.
“The amount of money being spent on signs plopped in the ground, I think it’s unnecessary,” Reierson said.
Tripp has raised more than $45,000. About $33,000 of that is his own.
Tripp has served as a District Court judge since he was appointed to the position in 1997.
Reierson worked in the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office before he resigned in August to campaign full time. Since then he has focused on knocking on voters’ doors and waving a sign at traffic passing by Manito Park. Reierson, who has appeared on the ballots in previous races as Jim Reierson, said he’s using his middle name on the ballot this year to honor his late uncle who was a World War I veteran.
Tripp said he wants everyone who appears before him to feel they were treated fairly.
“As citizens, they have the right to expect to be treated fairly in the courts,” he said. “I hope I hit the mark more times than not.”
Reierson said he’s running to ensure the rights of victims and said he will focus on public safety and deterrence.
“ ‘Public safety’ sometimes seems like a trite phrase, but that’s the most important role of a judge is ensuring public safety,” he said.
Judges have to consider if a defendant is likely to commit other crimes, Reierson said.
“I think that’s where I excel,” Reierson said. “I’ve had a pretty good record on prosecuting DUIs in Kootenai County. I’ve had a good record. I’ve been a zealous prosecutor, but I’ve also been fair to the defendants.”
Although Reierson has not made an issue about the Blueprint for Reform, a recent report from the Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Commission that was critical of the District Court, Tripp defended the work of his fellow judges. He believes the report contained unfair criticisms.
“I’m proud of the innovations we’ve done with limited funds,” he said.
He added, however, that the report contained some good ideas. For instance, Tripp supports examining the commission’s recommendation to combine cases in different courts, such as District and Municipal Court.
“How that would work and what changes would have to take place, I don’t know,” he said.
Reierson said judges who have been on the bench too long get a “feeling of entitlement.”
Tripp has been endorsed by numerous District Court, Superior Court, Municipal Court and Court of Appeals judges. Reierson has not released any endorsements.
Tripp was rated “exceptionally well qualified” by the Spokane County Bar Association; Reierson refused to participate in the bar poll.
Tripp said the association’s evaluation is “a good process.”
“I’m sorry it won’t give the voters the ability to have their assessment of (Reierson),” he said.
Reierson said he believes the bar poll is “rigged” in favor of incumbent judges and noted that many attorneys are displaying Tripp’s campaign signs.
Reierson participated in the association’s bar poll the first time he ran for a District Court seat in 1998. In that evaluation, he scored below his opponent. Reierson refused to participate in the bar poll in 2002, the first time he challenged Tripp for his seat.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.