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Local judicial candidates tend to run low-key, high-minded campaigns. But fliers vilifying Presiding Judge Paul Lipscomb have pulled a Marion County race down to the level of a mud-wrestling match.
The three fliers come from a political action committee with the chutzpah to call itself the Judicial Integrity Coalition. It is an offspring of FreedomWorks, a political group based in Washington, D.C., with a campaign center in Oregon.
Ross Day, Lipscomb's challenger for Position 2 on the Marion County Circuit Court, claims he knew nothing about the fliers until they started showing up in the mail. The tabloid-style headlines don't necessarily represent his vision of his own campaign, he says, but he has no authority to stop them.
Wrong. He has the moral authority to disown these despicable actions being conducted on his behalf.
He has refused to do so.
The Statesman Journal Editorial Board rarely probes the minutiae of individual campaign fliers. But these are egregious. They make Oregonians want to wash their hands after handling them. And because the Judicial Integrity Coalition still has $55,000 in the bank, there likely are more to come.
But why are out-of-county interests trying to "buy" a seat on the Marion County Circuit Court? Do they think their sleaze will trump the respect that Lipscomb has earned from law enforcement officials, lawyers and private citizens throughout Marion County?
In a democracy, voters benefit from choices, including in judicial elections. However, voters don't need to rely on hatchet jobs masquerading as "research" -- like the pieces mailed by Lipscomb's foes.
How can a group with "integrity" as its middle name do the following:
Claim that Lipscomb has "a record of poor judgment" because higher courts reversed or modified 26 of his decisions during the past 10 years? That amounts to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the approximately 30,000 cases that Lipscomb handled during that time, including some of the most complex ones in Oregon. Contrary to the "integrity" coalition's inferences, Lipscomb's record is remarkable.
Contend that Lipscomb has "poor judgment" because he has the courage to make tough decisions and the integrity to follow the law, down to all of its excruciating details?
Turn a nonpartisan judicial race into a rematch of Measure 37? By taking newspaper headlines out of context and evoking details of a Deschutes County property disagreement, the fliers wrongly imply that this race concerns a land-use measure that already has been upheld by the state Supreme Court. That property disagreement and resulting lawsuit have tested the contrasting roles of Lipscomb as judge and private citizen, but he has passed that test with the highest ethics.
Overlook Day's efforts to manipulate the objective questionnaire provided by the Oregon State Bar? Day also has been changing his story about whether he informed bar officials about his alterations.
All this should embarrass the Oregon timber and development companies that are pouring big bucks into the "integrity" coalition, especially Seneca Sawmill of Eugene, which put up more than $50,000.
Shame on them for trying to hijack this judicial race.