The following is a transcript of the three-minute statements read by challenger Anna Alexander and incumbent Edirin Okoloko, running for Snohomish County Superior Court Position 7, during a candidate Meet and Greet event Sept. 8 at Edmonds Center for the Arts.
While much of the Sept. 8 candidate event focused on Edmonds candidates, it also included candidates for Edmonds School Board and Snohomish County Superior Court Judge, who will appear on Nov. 5 general election ballots in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.
We will post future candidate statements from that event here, by position, over the next several days.
You can also see video of the candidates speaking here. The event was sponsored by the Edmonds Neighborhood Action Coalition, Indivisible Edmonds and the Sierra Club.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Pos. 7
Hi everyone in Edmonds; you’re my neighbors.
I am Anna Alexander and I’m running for Superior Court judge.
Who here has seen any of my signs around town? OK, good! Many of you have also seen my face. I live here in Edmonds, and if you stop by my table in the back you’ll see my daughter Lily, who put the stickers on my signs. She’s 12 years old, which is the age I was when my mom and dad brought my sister and me here in 1989 — 30 years ago — from the former Soviet Union.
We were refugees from a totalitarian regime. When Gorbachev opened the doors a tiny bit my mom and dad took the opportunity to bring me and my sister here. She was 4, I was 12, my grandparents were 70. We left everything we knew with a few suitcases, asked for refugee status when we arrived, and after interviews and exams and some waiting in limbo we were lucky enough to be able to come here.
If you stop by my table you’ll also meet my mom and dad, who taught me the value of hard work and to take the opportunities that we have here and develop yourself in a way that inspires others. That led me to the University of Washington for an undergraduate degree, and then to the UW Law School, where at 19 years old I became the youngest woman admitted. I’ve been a lawyer now for almost 20 years, 15 of them in private practice.
I was inspired to run for office after I went to a training designed to support women running for office. There I learned that while it’s great to support women candidates, we need more. That’s when I decided to be a run for office, and when a judge [George Bowden] retired late last year, I decided to seek the office.
I am currently the president of our Snohomish County chapter of Washington Women Lawyers. I’m endorsed by the National Women’s Political caucus. I have the some other very good sole endorsements, and I’m very proud. Among these is the 26,000-person-strong Aerospace Machinists union.
Our Superior Court handles more than just criminal matters. These include land-use issues, legislative issues, employment issues, family law issues, and civil disputes of all sorts. Having run a private practice, I know what it is to sign a paycheck on the front and on the back. I know how to litigate all types of cases. In addition, I’ve been appointed as a judge pro tem since 2008 to serve as a judicial officer when judges go on vacation or are sick, and while my practice has been very busy for the past 11 years, I’ve set aside time to serve in this capacity.
I hope to have your support and your vote in November. Thank you.
Good evening everyone. My name is Edirin Okoloko. I am the incumbent Snohomish County Superior Court Judge, Position 7, and I want to thank the sponsors for putting this together. I am grateful for the opportunity to address you today. Fun fact about my name – it is a palindrome, meaning it spells the same both ways.
I was born in Nigeria. I was the fourth child of Professor George and Elizabeth Okoloko. My father was a scientist and professor of molecular biology. My mom raised me and my siblings. She taught us many things, among them the importance of honesty and integrity. She taught me not to make people wait to gain your trust, but rather to give it freely and only take it away when they give me a reason.
My father was passionate about his work. I thought I’d be a scientist like him, but the military intervention into the democratic structure of government in Nigeria and the civil rights abuses that followed set me on a different path and passion: the study of law. I began to study law in Nigeria. Shortly after graduating from law school I won and qualified for a U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery, emigrated to the United States, and became a citizen. I went to law school again at night at Seattle University, working during the day to support myself.
While in school I was hired by a newly-appointed judge of the Snohomish County Superior Court as his first law clerk. I was subsequently recruited from that position to work in the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s office, where I worked for about 13 years [as a deputy prosecuting attorney]. I was employed there until I was approached by members of the bench, defense attorneys, prosecutors and members of the community to put my name in for a judgeship. I was one of 12 individuals that applied for the position last year. We were all vetted by the governor and his general counsel, and I was among those recommended to him for an interview; the next day he called me up and offered me the job.
My experience as a prosecuting attorney was shaped by the values I learned while growing up. I believe that the power of the office brings tremendous responsibility, and that you don’t alter lives without really having evidence to support the crime. That’s the way I practice. That’s why I’m supported by defense attorneys and supported by people who I’ve worked against. I also recognize that defense attorneys, judges and the prosecutors are all working towards the same goal: justice for everyone. When I was approached to apply for the judgeship, I saw it as an opportunity to inspire people based on these values.
I’m endorsed by the governor; I have the support of all the judges in the Snohomish County Superior Court and am endorsed by more than 100 judges statewide. My wife is here with me tonight. We’re both Edmonds residents, having lived here for the past 16 years. I come to this not out of ambition, but service. I hope that I can speak with you at the end of this program so that I can tell you much more about who supported me. Thank you for your time today.