Politics Blog

Judge Montoya-Lewis already wins 2015 election

Whatcom County’s first native American superior court judge already won her seat in the 2015 election by virtue of being the only person to sign up for the position during ballot filing week, May 11-15.

The state constitution and code put a few wrinkles in the election process that don’t come up very often. One of them applies this year to Raquel Montoya-Lewis, who was sworn into office in January after being appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee. The state Legislature in 2013 created a fourth judge position in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Montoya-Lewis is deemed elected by authority of the constitution, Article IV, Section 29, which says that if only one person files for superior court judge in a county with a population of 100,000 or more, then that person is automatically elected. (The latest population estimate for Whatcom County, just released by the U.S. Census Bureau, is 208,351.)

State code requires an appointed judge to run in the in the first general election after her appointment if she seeks to hold her seat, but she then would only hold it “for the remainder of the unexpired term.” Since elections for all Whatcom Superior Court judges are held in the same year (next year), the remainder of Montoya-Lewis’ term is only through 2016. She will need to run again next year with all other superior court judges if she intends to retain the seat for another term.

Finally, a note in passing about another quirk in our state’s election process, which applies to superior court judges and some other offices. From the state code:

“For the office of justice of the supreme court, judge of the court of appeals, judge of the superior court, judge of the district court, or state superintendent of public instruction, if a candidate in a contested primary receives a majority of all the votes cast for that office or position, only the name of that candidate may be printed for that position on the ballot at the general election.”

In other words, for select offices, a candidate can win outright in the August primary if she gets 50 percent of all votes cast, plus one. In all other races, say for mayor, City Council member or state legislator, even a candidate who wins a majority of votes in the primary must still face off against the No. 2 vote-getter in the November election.