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July 27, 2006

A new Johnson gets in the Supreme Court race

Posted by David Postman at 4:47 PM

Seattle attorney Michael Johnson just filed with the Secretary of State's office in the race against Justice Susan Owens. What's most enticing about this is that already in the race is a well known Johnson, state Sen. Steve Johnson.

I don't know Michael Johnson, but we're trying to reach him. His secretary said he was busy and unavailable until tomorrow.

Anyone know who he is? He was admitted to the state bar in 1998, the year he graduated from UW law. He's 46 years old, and has a firm specializing in elder law.

There are already two Johnsons on the court, Charles and James, so it's a winning name. And in a race with a well-known Johnson, Michael's entry certainly raises the prospect of an interesting and perhaps confusing race.

UPDATE: Michael Johnson has been tough to reach tonight.

His practice specializes in elder law and guardian cases. He and his firm are listed with the Greater Seattle Business Association, the gay chamber of commerce. He is somewhat politically active, having donated at least $910 to Victims Advocates, a trial lawyer PAC. The PAC gave $9,000 to Citizens for Upholding the Constitution, a PAC that is supporting Owens.

So why is a guy who supports the gay community and gives to an Owens-friendly PAC running against Owens, something of a hero to many in the gay community for her stand yesterday on the gay marriage decision?

There's a good chance it's a monkey wrench candidacy; an effort to confuse people, take votes from Steve Johnson and help Owens make it through the primary at least.

"What you'd have to think is if he runs and people think he is the other Johnson in the race — Steve — Susan gets to the general election," said former Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge.

And in the general election, Talmadge said, there will be more voters than in the primary and a voting demographic likely more inclined toward Owens. Talmadge told me he and Michael Johnson were co-counsel on a case but he did not know that Johnson had gotten in the Supreme Court race.

My colleague Ralph Thomas will have more on the Supreme Court races in tomorrow's paper.

Talmadge points out that other unknowns have run for the Supreme Court. Justice Charles Johnson was certainly one when he ran in 1990, beating incumbent Chief Justice Keith Callow. Many people think Johnson's name helped, with voters knowing little about court candidates it may have just seemed more familiar, and friendly, than Callow.

Chuck Johnson only spent about $1,000 on his chief-beating campaign. It may have been a crapshoot or a lark, but Johnson wasn't in the race to help another candidate. He has been re-elected twice since and has matured into a respected member of the court.

Is Michael L. really hoping to join Charles W. and James M. on the bench? I hope to hear from him soon so he can convince me.

Others are checking him out, too. See Stefan Sharkansky's post and this at Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

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