With two longtime judges retiring in January, Thurston County Superior Court will see two fresh faces on the bench in the coming year. But who those judges will be wasn’t clear Tuesday night.
John Skinder, who had about 55 percent of the vote Tuesday, will likely take Position 7, currently held by Judge Gary Tabor. His opponent, Jim Foley, trails by 7,694 votes.
“With this being my first time running, I really didn’t know what to expect,” Skinder said Tuesday night. “But now, I’m excited to get to work. I’m really happy.”
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He said that he celebrated his win with a small group of people who helped with his campaign.
The race for Position 1 is much closer. Chris Lanese has about 51 percent of the vote — a 1,851 vote lead over Laura Murphy, who has about 48.5 percent of the vote. The winner will take the seat currently held by Judge Chris Wickham.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow,” Murphy said. “It’s really just too close to call.”
She and her supporters celebrated Tuesday night at the Capital Event Center in Tumwater.
Lanese’s sentiments were similar.
“There are a lot of ballots left to count. But I am grateful for the support and am happy with the initial results,” he said.
Lanese said he spent the evening with his family.
Skinder, 46, has spent 16 years working for the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office and the preceding three years at the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary and earned his law degree from Seattle University.
During his campaign, he told The Olympian that if elected, he hopes to expand Thurston County’s alternative courts.
“One of the areas that judges should think about is looking at innovative, creative ways to deal with a lot of the problems we see in the criminal justice system,” Skinder said.
Foley, 61, earned his bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University and his law degree from the University of Puget Sound. He spent a year working as a public defender in Pacific County and spent the remainder of his 25-year career in private practice in Thurston County.
Lanese, 34, earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and his law degree from Harvard. He began his career in private practice in Seattle and is a managing assistant attorney general for the state Office of the Attorney General.
Murphy, 55, earned her bachelor’s degree from Saint Martin’s University and her law degree from Seattle University. She worked for the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office, and practices criminal and civil law in a private practice. For the past year, she has served as a judge pro tempore in Thurston County Superior Court and spent the previous decade as a commissioner pro tempore in Thurston County District Court. She is the only candidate in either race to have served in a judicial capacity for Superior Court.
Like Skinder, both Murphy and Lanese have high hopes for Thurston County’s alternative courts. During her campaign, Murphy mentioned domestic violence court as a possible area of expansion for Thurston County. Lanese said he drew inspiration from the Community Court program enacted by the city of Olympia this year.