[NWPT48]Judge Bridges bitch-slapped Dino Rossi.
There’s really no other way to interpret the decision he issued today in the election contest lawsuit. Apart from a few lines at the start, criticizing the “culture” of King County Elections, about the only positive note Republicans can take out of the Judge’s ruling is that he didn’t impose Rule 11 sanctions on the Rossi camp for bringing a frivolous lawsuit. I’m guessing Timothy Borders et al were a bit nervous there for a few moments, waiting for Judge Bridges to order them to reimburse the Dems for legal costs.
“Dismissed with prejudice.”
No… the Democrats didn’t get off on some technicality. The Judge ruled that the Republicans resoundingly failed to prove their case. He ruled that there was no evidence ballots were changed or that ballot boxes were stuffed or that legal votes were removed from one candidate or the other. There was no evidence that Gregoire engaged in wrongdoing, or that election officials committed fraud… no evidence of intentional misconduct, partisan bias or an attempt to manipulate the election… and no evidence to question ballot security, or that reconciliation errors were anything more than just that. There was no evidence presented as to how felons and mishandled provisionals might have voted, or even if they had marked a ballot for governor at all. Indeed: “There is no evidence in this record that Ms. Gregoire received any illegal votes.”
And after rejecting the Republicans’ proposed “proportional deduction” methodology as “unscientific”, Judge Bridges twisted the knife:
“An election such as this should not be overturned because one judge picks a number and applies a proportional deduction analysis. To do so within the context of the facts of this case would constitute the ultimate act of judicial egotism and judicial activism.”
This was an elected judge from a heavily Republican county, speaking directly to Republicans in words he knew they would understand. “Judicial activism” is a phrase that resonates with conservative Republicans, and he made a point of explaining to voters that this was exactly what Rossi’s attorneys had asked him to exercise.
Judge Bridges had clearly laid down in pre-trial rulings the standard of evidence and burden of proof he would require, but for many of their claims, Rossi’s attorneys failed to even try to meet them. Thus no one should be surprised by the overwhelmingly one-sided nature of today’s decision.
No one except perhaps for the Rossi faithful who chose to get their “news” and “analysis” exclusively from right-wing talk radio and blogs like (un)Sound Politics. Oh, I don’t expect conservative Republicans to rely on an unabashedly liberal blog like HA for their election contest coverage (though I think it’s fair to immodestly point out that I was proven absolutely right on almost every single legal point.) But you would have had to have totally dismissed the extensive coverage in the MSM to go into this morning’s ruling with more than the tiniest shred of hope that Rossi might prevail in court. He had no case… and Judge Bridges wasn’t shy about pointing that out.
And that is why it is no surprise that Rossi has decided not to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court, for to do so would have invited a judicial smack down that would have made Judge Bridges’ legal kick-in-the-groin look like a tap on the tuchus from my 87-year-old bubbie. As I had previously predicted, the cherry-picked judge from conservative Chelan County was careful to structure his ruling to make it virtually appeal proof. He admitted nearly every piece of evidence proffered by either side, and then made his decision by applying established precedent to findings of fact. Appellate courts nearly always accept the lower courts’ evidentiary findings, and by limiting the universe of illegal votes to a number more or less split between the two sides, the Supremes would have been as hamstrung by the evidence as Judge Bridges’ was by the statute.
So Rossi has ended his dishonest contest, not out of some desire to heal the state or personally move on, or even out of grudging respect for the rule of law — he ended his contest because he had no choice. Given the magnitude of his legal loss, and the manner in which the ruling was structured, he not only had no hope of prevailing on appeal, he had no hope of convincing anybody but the most ardently blind true-believer that even he believed he had any hope of prevailing in court.
Shortly before I boarded my plane, I called Andrew at Northwest Progressive Institute, and asked him to post an update to HA if Rossi conceded. The Republicans had always promised to appeal, and I had no advance knowledge to the contrary, but the Rossi folk had always shown a knack for savvy PR moves, and it seemed clear to me that quickly ending this hopeless fight was the savvy move to make in light of their lopsided legal loss. But while I somewhat expected a concession, when I read the quotes from his news conference, I was disappointed.
Rossi said because the “political makeup of the Washington Supreme Court” makes it “almost impossible to overturn this ruling, I am ending this election contest.”
To blame his concession on a partisan court strikes me as both insolent and ungracious, at a time when a true statesman would have been more… well… statesmanlike (think Al Gore’s concession in 2000,) whatever the personal sacrifice and disappointment. I expect some of his faithful supporters to refuse to accept the facts — and perhaps Rossi himself really does believe that this was a stolen election — but a true leader must be bigger than partisan politics or personal ambition… and today, Rossi’s statements made him look very, very small indeed.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I empathize with the disappointment and frustration and cynicism many Rossi supporters must feel. If the shoe were on the other foot I might have been skeptical myself… although I hope that in the end I would have accepted that the facts of this case simply did not bear out the suspicions. But what really disturbs me about the angry rhetoric that continues to flow from the state GOP and its surrogates, is the complete and utter lack of empathy coming from their ranks.
As a Democrat, I am offended by the assumption that I am somehow less moral, less ethical, less honest and less capable than my Republican counterparts. I resent the oft-repeated notion that Democrats are more likely to cheat, and that we cannot win elections without doing so. I am in fact angry that Republicans would accuse Democrats in a court of law, of “stealing” an election… without even bothering to present any direct evidence to support their claim.
The contest statute is intended to remedy those rare elections where it is clear that the wrong candidate was declared the winner. It is not intended to be used merely as a vehicle for running a six-month PR campaign designed to extract a political price from the opposition for crimes they did not commit.
Yes, the Republicans had every right to pursue an election contest, but in dismissing their claims “with prejudice,” Judge Bridges made it clear that it was a right the Republicans cynically abused. Dino Rossi owes Christine Gregoire, Democratic voters, and the people of Washington an apology.