Longtime Supreme Court justice Richard Sanders portrays himself as a libertarian—on a mission to protect your civil liberties. His record, however, shows that behind his libertarian streak—for marijuana use, for gun rights, and for strict penalties against officials who violate public disclosure laws—are some standard-issue hard-right positions that contradict his fight for personal freedom.

In 1996, for example, Sanders spoke at an anti-choice rally in Olympia, saying that nothing was more "more fundamental in our legal system than the preservation and protection of innocent human life.” (He was charged with, and ultimately cleared of, judicial misconduct.) Sanders also signed off on an opinion supporting the supreme court's decision to uphold the anti-gay-rights Defense of Marriage Act, arguing that the court didn't go far enough to establish that marriage could only be between a man and a woman.

Charlie Wiggins, a Bainbridge Island attorney who has served on the court of appeals in Tacoma and on two county superior courts, is the obvious choice to unseat the erratic, hard-line, right-wing Sanders.

Over the years, Sanders has shown a penchant for making both headlines and enemies. In 2004, Sanders (who opposes campaign-finance reform) accepted more than $35,000 in contributions from the Building Industry Association of Washington, the state's biggest builders' PAC; subsequently, Sanders ruled for the BIAW's position in 25 out of 28 cases in which the group filed amicus or friend of the court briefs. In 2006, he was reprimanded by a Supreme Court panel for visiting violent sexual offenders on McNeill Island, “creating the appearance of impropriety" ; he received an admonishment, the lowest possible sanction. And in 2008, Sanders had an outburst at a meeting of the conservative Federalist Society, standing up and yelling "tyrant!" during a speech by former US attorney general Michael Mukasey.

Sanders' opponent Wiggins has accused the incumbent of favoring the rights of criminal defendants over their accusers; for example, he voted against disbarring an attornyey who had molested a former client who was 11 at the time.

Wiggins, an attorney specializing in appellate cases for more than 30 years, served on the court of appeals in Tacoma and on two county superior courts. He has received ratings of "exceptionally well qualified" or "outstanding" from numerous bar associations and election-rating groups, and has the endorsement of 30 prosecutors, the Law Enforcement Administrators of Washington (Sheriffs and Police Chiefs) and the Washington State Labor Council. PubliCola thinks Wiggins will offer a calm, professional contrast to Sanders' often half-baked, doctrinaire legal reasoning.

PubliCola picks Charlie Wiggins.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The primary is a key date for Washington State Supreme Court races. If there are only two candidates, the candidate who receives a majority of the vote wins.

In races with more than two candidates, such as this one, if any candidate receives more than 50 percent of the primary vote, that candidate moves on, unchallenged, to the general.
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