By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
“It’s important that people vote on the quality and content of the candidate, not based on demographics,” said Justice Steve Gonzalez about an op-ed written by his colleague, Justice Mary Yu.
In the op-ed titled, “When Voting for Judges, Don’t Be Fooled by the Name — Vote for Justice Steve Gonzalez,” Yu wrote that most voters opt out of voting in judicial races due to a lack of information about candidates. Or they vote based on name familiarity.
Gonzalez is one of three justices up for re-election this November. And he is the only one facing a challenge on the ballot — from Nathan Choi, a Bellevue attorney.
“An ‘Asian sounding’ name might be attractive to our community, especially if you do not have sufficient information about his lack of qualifications,” Yu wrote.
“But, please don’t be fooled by a name.”
In February, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office sued Choi for a wide range of campaign finance violations during the 2017 election year. In October 2017, Choi bought a full page ad in the Seattle Times with the headline, “Vote for Judge Nathan Choi” — suggesting to voters that he is already a judge. The King County Bar Association found that Choi violated the bar’s Fair Campaign Practices Guidelines.
Yu wrote in her op-ed, “This is the second time Choi has filed against an incumbent judge (he previously ran against Judge Michael Spearman) without filing the proper paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission. He has been cited for violating local election laws regarding signage and he has refused to cooperate with any of the bar association evaluations.”
In contrast, Gonzalez said “I’ve been willing to go before evaluation committees and have them call my references to ask me questions … All 11 of the bar associations rated me ‘exceptionally qualified.’”
Choi did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story. On his campaign website, he states that he is a patriot and that he will be a “Rule of Law Judge. This makes me unpopular with the Main Stream Media and the Establishment.”
Yu wrote, “I urge the Asian Pacific Islander community to exercise the right to vote for a judge based on competence and experience and not because a name sounds like someone from our community.”
It goes on to say, “I have served with Justice Gonzalez as a trial judge and now at the Supreme Court, and he is intelligent, hard-working, efficient, thoughtful, and committed to community service. His background and experience in the position makes him uniquely qualified to remain on the Supreme Court, and he is someone you can trust.”
Justices serve six-year terms with a mandatory retirement age of 75. Though the positions are elected, appointments are made by the governor when there is a midterm vacancy. Gonzalez was appointed by former Gov. Christine Gregoire and he was elected to subsequent terms.
For more information about judicial races, go to VotingforJudges.org to see how each candidate has been rated.
Ruth can be reached at email@example.com.