UPDATE: Campaign Signs and a Clerk’s Time: New Allegations Fly in Bremerton Judge Race

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The two candidates for Bremerton Municipal Court judge are facing new challenges less than a week before the votes are counted.

At some point during this month, signs for attorney Ed Wolfe, who is challenging incumbent judge James Docter, began appearing with small placards that say “RATED Highly Qualified” (see photo that was emailed to me by a Docter supporter).

In a letter to the editor in our paper today, Kevin “Andy” Anderson (a lawyer who works as a county prosecutor) contends that the Kitsap County Bar Association poll results fly in the face of that placard. I’ll let you decide: the results, as published to votingforjudges.org, are thus:

Of 63 attorneys, Ed Wolfe was rated:

“Highly Qualified” by 15 lawyers;

“Qualified” by 17 lawyers;

“Not Qualified” by 26 lawyers;

And five abstained.

UPDATE: I spoke with Wolfe today (Monday) about the signs. He said he was “disappointed,” by my blog post, and that with the bar association poll results, “I feel comfortable saying I’m highly qualified based on that representation.”

He said that the poll was still taken by only 63 lawyers, even though there are hundreds of attorneys in the county.

Meanwhile, Port Orchard resident Stephen P. Miller has filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) against incumbent James Docter. His allegation: that Docter stated, during a Bremerton Kiwanis candidate forum Oct. 8, he, nor his clerks, had found evidence that Wolfe had handled a criminal trial in Bremerton Municipal Court. Miller believes that a “reasonable person” would conclude Docter was using city paid clerks to help with his campaign.

I called Docter about the allegation, and he said he felt it was “completely baseless.” He said he’d asked a clerk at lunch one day if she could recall anytime Wolfe had in fact handled a criminal trial in order to double check his own memory.

I also checked with Theresa Ewing, Bremerton Municipal Court administrator. Ewing said she must remain neutral in elections: “We serve whoever wears the robe.”

She explained she was in the court’s break room at lunch one day when Docter and a clerk discussed if Wolfe had handled any such trials. But she was adamant that such discussions did not happen while on the city’s paid time.

The complaint won’t be followed up by the PDC until after election day.

10 thoughts on “UPDATE: Campaign Signs and a Clerk’s Time: New Allegations Fly in Bremerton Judge Race

  1. As Paul Harvey would say, and now for the rest of the story. I am surprised that Josh Farley did not mention the other PDC complaint that was filed concerning James Docters campaign filing the appropriate paperwork late a total of 14 times. This is a serious violation of campaign rules and is easily verified by public records. Josh Farley and the Sun have been sitting on this information, why is that??
    However since I was the one who filed the PDC complaint mentioned let me explain further. While at the Kiwanis debate James Docter did in fact say “ neither myself nor my clerks could find any evidence of this” meaning Ed Wolfes sitting on the bench on a criminal trial. The question was immediately asked by another person in attendance “Are you stating that you used city employees on the clock to research your campaign” This question was ignored. He was then immediately asked by the same person the same exact question. Again the question was not answered. He was then asked a third time and again James Docter refused to answer. Seeing that he was not going to get an answer he then changed his question to “ is using city employees to research a campaign while getting paid wrong. Again the question was not answered. A second time he was asked in which James Docter finally replied that yes it would be wrong.
    Because of the way the questioning took place and the fact that Docter had every chance to clarify what he said and did not leads me to believe that any reasonable person would come to this conclusion. But just to be sure I asked about twenty different people to get their response and they seemed to agree. After that I contacted the PDC and talked with them directly just to make sure that this was not a “frivolous complaint” in which they assured me it was not. Only after that did I file the complaint. If Josh Farley or anyone in the Sun had contacted me (they did have my contact information) and asked me about this I surely would have explained all the circumstances to make sure they got a clear picture. Of course it would have been better if they had been at the debate…. Or any debate for that matter.
    Filing this complaint is a serious matter since I had to sign an oath stating that these things are true under penalty of perjury. I feel the the Sun or any person in the press should report all the facts just as seriously knowing full well the consequences if they do not.

  2. Couple of points of clarification from commenters:

    Steve Miller says there is a complaint against Docter about late campaign filings. According to Lori Anderson at the PDC, there is only one complaint filed that they are investigating — Miller’s. That said, Anderson confirmed they are reviewing another possible complaint, but “We haven’t decided if it’s something we’re going to respond to,” she said.

    Vern Rutter said Wolfe was local campaign chair for McCain/Palin. According to a Kitsap Sun story by Steven Gardner in February 2008, he served as the chair for their Washington campaign in the state’s sixth congressional district.

    For more: http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2008/feb/08/kitsap-campaign-leader-proud-to-be-on-board-as/#ixzz0VjcbQsC7

  3. Why is serving on the McCain/Palin campaign a bad thing again? I think it speaks to Mr. Wolfe’s commitment to his community that he gets involved. A couple of years ago, I heard Sandra Day O’Connor, retired Supreme Court Justice, give a speech and she said that more civic engagement is much needed in our nation.

    Is there something inherently bad about being a Republican?

    I’ve met Mr. Wolfe. From all that I have seen of him, he judges people by their actions, not their political affiliations. I certainly prefer that quality in a judge as well.

    Kathryn Simpson

  4. “…I was the one who filed the PDC complaint …”

    And the date you filed the complaint with the election tomorrow?
    Sharon O’Hara

  5. Frankly, I don’t want to hear what a group of attorneys believe about a judge. Given the latter’s responsibility to be objective when hearing the former’s cases, taking a vote or running its ‘results’ into the ground is the last thing which should be occurring to engender comunity trust. And how absurd to have Ed serve as a pro tem Judge for years, only to now raise the question of his qualification when he runs for a permanent position. How stupid do these people think voters are?

    All you really need to know about this race: Ed Wolfe was John McCain and Sarah Palin’s local campaign chair.

    Correction: that’s all you need to know. Hopefully, the rest of us want to know about candidate qualifications and their positions on the issues.

    Ed has continued to take the high road despite an unfortunate effort to engage him in an ugly campaign race. I can’t say I’m surprised: he is a consummate professional and individual well above that dynamic.

  6. ” he judges people by their actions…”

    Yes, and the voters will vote with that in mind, I’m sure.

    Sharon O’Hara

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