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Mailer adds heat to hot race

Attorney says he’s filing a complaint over Gaylord’s ‘misleading’ claims

Campaigns can turn heated when the stakes are high.

And what could be higher in San Juan County than the position of Superior Court judge?

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the candidates vying for the position, Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord and Judge John Linde, are increasingly on the hot seat.

A recent advertisement mailed by the Gaylord campaign has one islander crying foul and preparing to take his grievance to a higher level.

Friday Harbor attorney Christopher Hodgkin said Monday that he would file a complaint with the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct challenging Gaylord over his campaign tactics and the mailer.

Though a Linde supporter, Hodgkin said he hasn’t consulted Linde or his campaign about filing the complaint or contributed financially to Linde’s campaign.

Hodgkin argues that the mailer, entitled “Seven Reasons to Vote for Randall Gaylord,” knowingly misrepresents the candidates and their qualifications. He said it omits facts and distorts others while drawing comparisons between Gaylord and Linde.

He claims Gaylord violated state prohibitions on partisan activity in judicial races by identifying himself as a Democrat at a recent candidates’ forum.

That’s a claim which Gaylord flatly denies, and he defends the mailer’s accuracy as well.

Gaylord said his election team researched and consulted with state officials about what’s allowed to be said by judicial candidates during a campaign. He said the judicial code of conduct does not prohibit candidates from disclosing their record in past elections, including whether they were nominated by a political party.

At the Aug. 2 League of Women Voters forum in Friday Harbor, Gaylord said in response to a question that in the four previous elections for county prosecutor he had run as the nominee of the Democratic Party. Gaylord insists that he did not identify himself as a Democrat.

“The code of conduct says that you don’t advertise, but you can respond truthfully to questions about prior elections, your history and your background,” he said.

In a video of the forum, Gaylord followed up his statement with, “That’s my history, that’s my values, that’s where I live, that’s where I rest.”

On the mailer, Gaylord notes under a portion entitled “Ethics,” that he “has taught lawyers ethics to maintain high standards” while Linde had been “formally disciplined by the Commission on Judicial Conduct.”

Known as an “admonishment,” that disciplinary action resulted after Linde misplaced a file which resulted in a delay in issuing a decision in a small claims case. It’s his only blemish during 21 years on the bench in District Court.

Hodgkin believes the mailer should include as well that Gaylord was “sanctioned” by Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock a decade ago for filing a “frivolous” motion in a land-use case. That motion attempted to undo a legal agreement between the county and an attorney representing a Shaw Island neighborhood group as part of a convoluted and prolonged and-use dispute.

No penalties were handed down and the sanction was never documented by the court as a written order. The county agreed to pay roughly $8,000 in attorney fees as a settlement from the sanction.

Gaylord said the sanction functions as notice of a “legal error.” But that error does not equate into a lapse in ethics or a violation of the judicial code, he said.

“It’s apples and oranges as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

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