Politics & Government

Ladenburg switches races, will run for high court seat

Former Pierce County Executive and Prosecutor John Ladenburg announced Wednesday he will forgo a third run for state attorney general and instead enter next year’s race for the state Supreme Court.

Ladenburg, 61, said his change of heart was due to prodding from friends, family, supporters and trial lawyers. He said there soon will be a need for attorneys with his legal experience on the state’s highest court, given the turnover of up to three seats on the bench next year.

As for his chance of winning the attorney general job, Ladenburg said internal polling was good. He figured he would have to raise $3 million for that race.

But he said he has a passion for the law and expects the Supreme Court will rule on important cases in the future.

“The courts are getting pushed more and more into being arbiters of these policy issues,” he said. “There just seems to be a lot happening in the court over the next decade or so.”

He lost to current Attorney General Rob McKenna in the 2008 general election, and lost to former Attorney General Chris Gregoire in the 1992 primary election.

Ladenburg said the Supreme Court may prove to be the tougher race next year. Washington’s code of judicial conduct bars candidates for judicial office from personally soliciting campaign donations outside of family and campaign staff. It prohibits candidates from making statements on issues or cases pending or likely to come before the court.

He said he will decide which seat on the court to seek before February, when the code of judicial conduct says candidates can start fundraising. He is forming his campaign committee this week.

Justice Gerry Alexander will step down this year when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75. Gregoire can pick his successor, but the appointee must appear on the ballot in 2012.

The terms of justices Tom Chambers and Susan Owens expire next year. Ladenburg said he will not run against an incumbent, if either or both of the two runs again.

Ladenburg has served stints as a pro tem municipal court judge but doesn’t feel his lack of judicial experience will be a detriment. He noted other justices have won election without previously serving on a bench.

He said he has extensive trial and appellate court experience and has argued cases in front of the state Supreme Court and U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. He is one of a handful of lawyers in the state to try a death penalty case as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney.

“If you’ve done both trial and appellate work, you’ve pretty much handled all the things that could come before the court,” he said.

Ladenburg served 14 years as Pierce County prosecuting attorney and eight years as county executive. He’s currently in private practice with his two sons and serves as managing partner of a governmental affairs consulting firm.

Christian Hill: 253-274-7390 christian.hill@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/politics