Next Tuesday's primary election is more than just preliminary voting for Blaine County's 5th Judicial District judge election. It's the final vote to determine whether Robert J. Elgee will remain judge or will be replaced by Hailey attorney Douglas Werth.
The Blaine County judge race is one of only three contested judicial elections in Idaho this year. Idaho Supreme Court Justice Roger Burdick has been challenged by 2nd Judicial District Judge John Bradbury. Since Bradbury can't run in two elections, his seat in northern Idaho is being contested by Idaho County Magistrate Court Judge Michael Griffin and Lewiston attorney Edwin Litteneker.
The Elgee-Werth race has heated up in the past few weeks. Campaign signs for the candidates have sprouted up throughout the Wood River Valley, advertisements are appearing regularly in the news media and the Idaho Mountain Express has been flooded with letters supporting the candidates.
But it's not just voters in Blaine County who will decide who will be the county's district court judge. The race will be decided by voters in all the 5th Judicial District's eight counties—Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls.
District court judges in Idaho are paid an annual salary of $112,043.
At 48, Werth said he has 25 years experience as an attorney. He has served as a deputy with the Idaho Attorney General's Office and as a Blaine County prosecuting attorney. He is currently in private practice and is one of five attorneys or legal firms that have public defender contracts with Blaine County. Werth also serves on the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission.
Werth is running on a platform he calls "judicial restraint," and explains that means that judges should follow the law and not make the law.
He has criticized Elgee for decisions two years ago on the Cove Springs development project south of Bellevue, contending that Elgee was wrong for striking down several county ordinances that the judge determined were illegal.
Werth has also criticized Elgee for a rash of disqualifications on criminal cases filed against the judge by prosecuting attorneys in Blaine and Twin Falls counties.
Robert J. Elgee
Elgee, 59, has 18 years experience on the bench, 12 as a Blaine County Magistrate Court judge and six in district court. Elgee says it's a judge's responsibility to determine the legality of laws and to interpret what laws mean in each specific case.
Elgee claims to have a broader range of legal experience than does his opponent. He has been endorsed by most of the attorneys in Blaine County and many others throughout the 5th Judicial District. Also, many of Blaine County's top police officers, including all three police chiefs in the county, have endorsed his re-election.
The judge declined to comment on a sexual discrimination lawsuit filed against Werth in 2000 when Werth was the county's prosecuting attorney, but some of Elgee's supporters have brought up the suit as a campaign issue.
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org
The polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for Idaho's primary election on Tuesday, May 25. Voting will take place are regular polling places. Anyone unsure of where to vote can log on to www.idahovotes.gov/yourpollingplace. Absentee voting is available through May 20 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Blaine County Courthouse and during the same hours on May 24.