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Forest Grove attorney fights judge for seat

Forest Grove lawyer Tim Marble, Tigard lawyer Ted Sims trade accusations

TIM MARBLEAn unusual contest for a Washington County circuit judgeship has taken a couple of sharp turns.

The Position 1 contest is between newly appointed Judge Ted Sims of Bull Mountain and Tim Marble, a lawyer from Forest Grove.

Although Oregon law sets six-year terms for judgeships, incumbent judges rarely face opponents in elections. The Marble-Sims contest is the only contested judge race out of 17 up for election in the tri-county area — and one of only six out of 57 up for election statewide.

As the incumbent, Sims has raised far more than Marble: $38,000 for Sims, including self-contributions and loans totaling $10,000, compared to Marble’s $6,600, most of it a self-loan.

Sims also won an Oregon State Bar preference poll of Washington County lawyers, 116 to 45.

The position is nonpartisan and when there are contests, candidates are limited by ethics rules on what they can discuss — usually the role of a judge and the qualifications of the candidates.

This contest is different.

Given that Gov. Kate Brown appointed Sims to the judge post, he has faced questions about a contribution he made to Brown’s campaign committee after incumbent judge Thomas Kohl stepped down last fall, leaving an opening in Washington County.

In turn, Marble has fended off questions raised by a story in Willamette Week about delinquent taxes on Forest Grove properties he lists as his home and law office.

Neither issue is dealt with in the candidates’ statements in the state’s official voters pamphlet. Only Sims has statements in the judicial candidate guide of the Oregon State Bar and the League of Women Voters.

Both candidates have endorsements, with Sims' including Gov. Brown, former Gov. Barbara Roberts, all five Washington County commissioners, most of the county’s state legislators, and former Chief Justice Edwin Peterson.

The candidates

For Sims, 60, his appointment represented more than the culmination of a 35-year legal career. He achieved something that his father and grandfather had not during their time at the family law firm, which his grandfather founded in 1903.

“We represented everyday Oregonians, and my work on their behalf helped solve their legal problems in a fair way,” he stated in the Oregon State Bar's judicial candidate guide. “I bring that same sense to my work as a judge: fairness and common sense.”

Sims graduated in 1973 from Marshall High School in Portland, then earned both his bachelor’s degree in economics (1977) and law degree (1980) from Willamette University. After years with his family's Portland-based law firm, Sims & Sims, he ran for a Multnomah County judgeship in 2006 but finished sixth of seven candidates.

Marble, 53, has practiced law in Forest Grove since 1996, specializing in elder law. He graduated from Forest Grove High School in 1980.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Anderson University in 1984 and a master’s in divinity studies from Vanderbilt University in 1988, Marble earned his law degree from Willamette University in 1993.

He said he's running for judge because “I want to give the voters a choice and because of my commitment to serving the residents of Washington County.

"Judicial positions frequently appear on the ballot unopposed. The voters deserve to have a voice in the process.”

Marble lost a race for Forest Grove mayor in 2014 to the incumbent, Pete Truax, who has endorsed Marble’s current bid for judge.

The contribution

Sims said his $1,000 contribution to the Kate Brown Committee on Oct. 19 was in keeping with his donations to previous governor campaigns. State campaign finance records show he contributed a total of $2,500 to Democrat John Kitzhaber’s third-term victory for governor in 2010 and $1,000 to Kitzhaber’s fourth-term victory in 2014.

Sims said the records also show smaller contributions from him to the 2012 campaigns of Oregon Supreme Court Justice Richard Baldwin and Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick.

“During the extensive interview, application and investigation process for the appointment to this position, I was never asked, and I never volunteered, whether or not I supported the governor. This appointment was made based on my qualifications for and ability to do the job of circuit court judge and nothing more.”

The tax statements

Marble, in turn, had to deal with an April 4 story in Willamette Week about delinquent taxes on two properties that Marble lists as his law office and his home, both in Forest Grove.

Marble told the Pamplin Media Group that he does not personally own either property and that "the taxes are current on both properties to the best of my knowledge.” County records show his law office is owned by Elsie Properties LLC, which has the same P.O. Box address as his law office. His home is owned by "Muriel LaRose Marble Living Trust," according to public records. Marble's mother, Muriel, passed away last year.

But county records confirm that the taxes were delinquent but are now current. One record suggests that at least part of the amount due was paid the same day the Willamette Week story ran.