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Superior Court judge, Court 7 is too close to call

Jennifer Forbes and Karen Klein will move on to the general election for Superior Court Judge, Court 7 - Courtesy photos
Jennifer Forbes and Karen Klein will move on to the general election for Superior Court Judge, Court 7
— image credit: Courtesy photos

PORT ORCHARD — As Jennifer Forbes hangs on the edge of winning the primary outright, the certification for Kitsap County Superior Court judge, Court 7 is too close to call.

The results wil be certified Aug. 21.

Election rules say if one candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, they are elected in the primary — no need for the general election. As of Thursday morning, Forbes has 49.1 percent of the vote, with nearly 17,000 ballots still to be counted, said Dolores Gilmore, Kitsap County Elections Manager.

Gilmore said the majority of the ballots should be counted by Friday.

At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, with 36,792 votes counted, the County Elections Office reported Forbes led the field with 18,097 votes, followed by Klein, 7,100; Rob MacDermid, 6,226; and Bill Houser, 5,137.

As of Thursday, there are still 16,800 ballot to be counted.

Gilmore said until they count the rest of the ballots, she couldn’t even guess the results.

“We’re obviously excited and overwhelmed by it, it’s very humbling actually,” Forbes said Wednesday. “Right now we’re presuming we’re going through to a general election, and starting to make plans to work hard and win it in the general election.”

Before the results, the candidates remained strong in their campaign messages.

“I think our campaign theme was about experience and community roots,” Forbes said Monday. “I’m the one candidate that really has all of that.”Klein said her grassroots campaign connected her with the voters.

“I have the maturity and judgement to sit in judgement and administer justice,” Klein said. “I have the legal, business and life experience to administer justice fairly and ensure people have the opportunity to be heard.”

Superior Court judges are paid $148,832 per year, a cost shared by state and county. Superior Court judges preside over felony trials, domestic relations matters, juvenile proceedings and probate. They handle real estate disputes and civil claims valued at over $50,000. They consider appeals in land-use cases and appeals from lower courts, and preside over mental inquest hearings.

All four candidates boasted significant experience: Forbes, president of the Kitsap County Bar Association, served as a judge pro tem for seven years on the local District Court and Municipal Court benches, and is a former deputy prosecutor. Houser, a former judge in Oregon, is a county public defender and the only candidate with experience handling a death penalty case. Klein has significant experience as a judge pro tem in King County. MacDermid is a corporate law attorney and a former Navy officer.

Forbes focused her attention on improving the efficiency of the Superior Court system.

In a separate interview with members of the Herald editorial board, Forbes spoke about the growing number of civil litigants who are representing themselves, called “pro se” because they can’t afford an attorney; the right to an attorney applies only to criminal cases. Court rules apply equally to attorneys and pro se litigants.

Her suggestions: Make sure the process and procedures are understandable, and have a separate calendar for cases in which both sides are represented pro se.

Other suggestions: Establish a system by which Superior Court cases to be filed electronically, as in District Court. “E-filing saves people money and it’s more efficient,” Forbes said. “Every time I file a case in Pierce County, I do a cartwheel because it’s so easy.”

Klein’s 30-year legal career includes private practice, general counsel, law school instructor, and service as a pro tem judge in Kitsap courts.

In addition to her pro tem work, Klein is the CEO of Silver Planet, a local company dedicated to helping the aging population manage their healthcare. At Silver Planet, Klein has used her legal expertise to negotiate and draft contracts, manage staff, run websites, protect intellectual property rights, and speak on social media issues.

Both Klein and Forbes, first-time candidates, said residents need to be more informed of judicial issues, and take it upon themselves as a goal if elected.

“I’ve learned we have a very educated population in Kitsap County, but they don’t know enough about judicial positions and races,” Klein said. “And we in the judicial, legal profession need to do a better job of educating people about the third branch of government.”

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