Votes for Kurzer could prolong judge race

Steven Kurzer no longer campaigning, still on ballot

By Shelby R. King / The Bulletin

Published Apr 11, 2014 at 12:01AM

Where once there were three Deschutes County judge candidates, now there are two. This means the election could extend until November, and the Deschutes County Circuit Court would need a substitute judge for several months.

Steven Kurzer, Randy Miller and Thomas “TJ” Spear filed as candidates to replace Deschutes County Circuit Judge Barbara Haslinger when she retires in July.

Kurzer has since withdrawn from the race, but did not do so by the March 11 deadline. This means his name will still appear on the ballot, even though he is not actively campaigning, said Deschutes County Clerk Nancy Blankenship.

If neither candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, the election will be decided in November. Haslinger on Thursday said her last day as a full-time judge will be July 1, but said she’ll be filling in after that.

When only two candidates file in a primary election, there is a good chance the race will be decided in the primary and will not need to be included on the November general election ballot, said Tony Green, communications director for the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.

“The office can be won at the primary election if only one candidate files for this office in the primary,” he said. “Or (if) two or more candidates file for this office and one receives the majority of votes.”

If there are more than two candidates in a race, and no one receives more than 50 percent of the votes, the top two “vote-getters” go on to the general election, Green explained.

Voters casting a ballot for Kurzer could undercut the ability of Miller or Spear to get more than 50 percent of the vote, extending the race to the November general election.

“There is no reason to delay the election, and that’s still a valid reason not to vote for Kurzer,” Haslinger said. “I will retire on July 1, but I will come to work the very next day.”

Haslinger explained that judges have an “unusual retirement clause” that requires them to substitute on circuit court benches throughout Oregon for seven weeks each year in the five years following their retirement.

Haslinger, like many Oregon judges, opted for a Plan B retirement, in which the state agrees to enhance judges’ pension if they agree to serve 175 days over a five-year period in any court in the state where needed, according to information from the Oregon State Bar website.

The statute requires judges to serve, without compensation, when called upon.

“I think it is, in fact, a given that we will get a replacement judge,” Haslinger said. “The understanding is that when you’re called to go, you go.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0376, sking@bendbulletin.com