WENATCHEE — District Court Judge Alicia Nakata and Wenatchee attorney Travis Brandt head back to their day jobs Wednesday, still unsure which of them will be Chelan County’s next Superior Court judge.
Tuesday evening’s tally handed 10,707 votes to Nakata, and 10,221 to Brandt in the race to succeed retiring Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges. That’s a 51.1 percent to 48.4 percent split, with at least 5,000 ballots left to be counted.
The next tabulation won’t happen until Friday. In the meantime Brandt will be back before the bar, and Nakata will be hearing trials in District Court.
“I wish I could go to bed with a little bit bigger margin, but I’m glad to have the one that I have,” Nakata said by phone about 9 p.m.
“You run through all these different scenarios that could happen prior to the election night,” Brandt said. “I knew it was going to be close, but I didn’t think it was going to be this close.”
The two are vying to be the county’s first Superior Court judge elected to an open seat since at least the 1950s.
Nakata, a 57-year-old East Wenatchee native, has been a judge in the lower Chelan County District Court for 18 years, after winning the seat in a four-way race. The court handles misdemeanor, small claims and infractions cases.
Prior to election, Nakata spent five years as chief criminal deputy under Chelan County Prosecutor Gary Riesen, during which she handled charges against some defendants in the infamous “Wenatchee sex rings” cases. Before that, she worked for King County and the city of Seattle as a public defender and city attorney, respectively.
Nakata said her work on the District Court bench is enough to occupy her mind until the votes are totaled.
“It’s important to me to continue with my current job,” she said. “I’d like the opportunity to have a different one, but until that happens, I’m very happy with my current one.”
Brandt, 41, has been a partner since 2003 in Wenatchee’s Brandt Law Firm, first with his sister Tracy and recently joined by brother Frank. He previously worked for other local firms beginning in 1999. In that time, he’s practiced in multiple areas of law, including family, civil, criminal, juvenile court and public defense. He’s also acted as a municipal prosecutor for the city of Wenatchee.
Nakata came into the general election after earning 39 percent of the vote in a four-way primary; Brandt drew 27 percent. With that in mind, Brandt said, the narrow margin on Tuesday was a positive sign.
“I’m really happy with how we came back,” he said. “… I’ve made up a lot of ground, and hopefully on Friday we’ll get that boost that we need.”
Brandt raised about $42,000 to fund his race as of mid-October, according to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission; Nakata gathered nearly $41,000.
Superior Court judges hear felony criminal cases, property disputes, civil lawsuits with claims above $50,000, divorces, adoptions, estate claims and mental illness actions. The office carries a $148,832 salary, set by a state commission and unchanged since 2008.
Bridges, retiring from his Position 3 seat after 23 years, is the longest-serving Superior Court judge in Chelan County’s history. From the 1957 appointment of Judge Lawrence Leahy, every new judge including Bridges has arrived on the Superior Court bench through gubernatorial appointment, and run for election as an incumbent. (Records are scarce on whether judges prior to Leahy were appointed or elected to an open seat.)
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123