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Supreme Court race too close to call

The acrimonious State Supreme Court Justice Position 6 race between incumbent Richard Sanders and Bainbridge Island attorney Charlie Wiggins looks like it is headed for the general election.

Sanders, who is seeking his third full term, had 47.6 percent of the vote compared to Wiggins’ 39.68 percent before election officials began counting primary votes again Thursday.

A third candidate, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff, had 12.72 percent of the 811,373 votes that had been counted.

The top two vote-getters will meet in the Nov. 2 general election if none of the candidates gets 50 percent or more of the primary vote.

Nick Handy, the elections director for the Secretary of State, said the unofficial results indicate that a general election runoff probably would be required to settle the race. (See www.wa.gov.election.)

Sanders said he hopes to have the necessary votes to avoid the general election but thought he would still get re-elected if he faced Wiggins in November.

“I thought it was a tough campaign, and it likely won’t change if there’s another one,” Sanders said Tuesday evening. “Some people think negative campaigning works, and Charlie is one of those. It’s the first election where an opponent has attacked my character and me as a judge. I prefer civility.”

He said he won’t change his approach to campaigning in the general election.

“I prefer campaigning on my record, truthfulness and fairness,” said Sanders, who has been on the State Supreme Court since 1995 and has been characterized by his critics as a libertarian. “I have a wide range of election support because people can relate to how I treat them as individuals.”

Wiggins said he’s pleased with the results and believes he’ll have a good chance to defeat Sanders in the general election.

“It’s encouraging that Chushcoff had as many votes as he did since he entered the race late,” Wiggins said. “I think a good amount of those will come to me in the runoff. I’m looking forward to it.”

Wiggins said he doesn’t consider his campaigning negative, despite what Sanders said.

“I’ve campaigned on my record and Sanders on his record,” Wiggins said.

“He sees it as a public attack, but I’ve just talked about his position and his record. If he thinks I’m mudslinging, it’s mud he’s made. I have nothing against him personally,” he said. “I have accused him of violating the court’s code of conduct and of not being impartial, but those are facts and not my opinion.”

Wiggins said he should do better in a runoff – if it goes that far.

“It takes some time to get the message out against an incumbent, and with two and a half more months I think that will help me,” Wiggins said.

“I think I will get some people who are sitting on the fence. I feel that the message we have laid out resonates, and voters are beginning to realize that Sanders is different than they are,” he said.

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