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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Wealthy Washingtonians Dump $350K Into Effort To Defeat Supreme Court Justice

Washington Supreme Court Justice Charlie Wiggins, left, is facing an aggressive challenge for his seat from Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Dave Larson.

A trio of wealthy Washingtonians has just put $350,000 into an effort to defeat a sitting state Supreme Court justice. Their target is Charlie Wiggins who’s been on the court since 2011.

The money comes from southwest Washington billionaire Ken Fisher, Mariners owner John Stanton and Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman’s Kemper Holdings. The money went to a political action committee called Judicial Integrity Washington run by former Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom.

That PAC is putting the $350,000 into a TV ad campaign against Justice Wiggins. He’s facing an aggressive challenge this year from Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Dave Larson. At a recent League of Women Voters forum, the two candidates sparred over the Supreme Court finding the state in contempt over school funding and imposing a $100,000 a day fine.

"If you believe we shouldn't do anything about this, you're saying ... I believe in education, I just don't want to pay for it. That's really what's being said here," Wiggins said.  

In his response Larson, who indicated the Supreme Court has overreached, defended his support of public schools. "Now you're on my turf. I lived it as a student. I was a school board president ... I was an architect of the first lawsuit in this century  to get education funding fixed."

Another hot issue in the race—the court’s ruling that voter-approved charter schools were not constitutional.

Two other sitting justices up for re-election this year also face tough challenges. In the August primary, Judicial Integrity PAC spent $100,000 to support Kittitas County Prosecutor Greg Zempel who is challenging Chief Justice Barbara Madsen for her seat. So far the PAC has not spent any money on that race in the general election or on the third Supreme Court race that pits Justice Mary Yu against Gonzaga law professor David DeWolf.

This story has been updated. A previous version inaccurately attributed a quote to Dave Larson. 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."