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Washington State Supreme Court Vote Exemplifies Importance of Down-ballot Races

November 4, 2016

Several years ago I heard a book tape of John Grisham’s novel The Appeal that described how a billionaire in Mississippi spent millions to unseat a judge who ruled in favor of a large a settlement awarded to someone who was adversely affected by the water supply tainted by a chemical company he owned. It was eye-opening for me on several levels, one of which was the fact that judges in some states are directly elected. One of the implicit points of Grisham’s book was that such elections can result in the “buying” of judges because their elections are typically so far down on the ballot that voters pay little or no attention to them.

Which brings us to Washington State, where blogger Peter Greene reports that billionaire privatizers like Reed Hastings, Bill Gates, and Peter Allen have spent hundreds of thousand so dollars in an effort to unseat three of the State Supreme Court judges who ruled that private charter schools were not eligible to receive state funds because they were not governed by elected boards.

And that, in turn, brings us to the roots of democracy. If a publicly elected board can be displaced by a privately operated cabal of businessmen, democracy is dead. I know from 29 years of experience that democratically operated public schools move slowly as compared to hierarchically operated businesses… but those seeking to bring business-like speed to public functions should realize that in doing so they are bringing profit to the forefront and the public good will take a backseat in the bargain. Friends in Washington should make surety support the incumbents who are not only looking out for public education: they are looking out for democracy.

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