Wash. tribes target 'extreme' candidate
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Washington state tribal leaders, whose campaign against former senator Slade Gorton was seen as instrumental to his demise, have jumped into this year's political race in hopes of repeating that success.

The target of the latest missive is not as high-profile as the man known throughout Indian Country as a foe to tribal sovereignty. But a new television ad paints a state judicial candidate as equally bad for Native people.

"Jim Johnson wants to be on the Supreme Court but take a closer look at his record," the 30-second ad states. "Johnson's made a career of attacking teachers and Native Americans."

It concludes: "Jim Johnson -- too extreme for the Supreme Court."

The commercial goes on the air today. It was jointly funded by 10 tribes under the auspices of the First Americans Education Project (FAEP), a politically-minded group that ran similar ads against Gorton in 2000. Additional money came from the Washington Conservation Voters.

According to Russ Lehman of the FAEP, tribes want to educate the public about Johnson's record on Indian issues, education and the environment. "He is clearly unsuited for the bench," he said.

Johnson, not surprisingly, got his start with Gorton during the 1970s. While Gorton was Washington's attorney general, the pair fought tribal fishing rights and sought to tax Indian commerce. They took the issues all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a private attorney, Johnson represented clients who opposed tribal shellfish rights. He lost the case but succeeded in imposing limits on access to private tidelands.

In 1998, he won a ruling that opened up the financial records of four Washington tribes to the public. That same year, he helped the state of Alaska in the historic Venetie Supreme Court case that limited Alaska Native sovereignty.

Johnson also argued 1998's Cass County v. Leech Lake Chippewa case to affirm the right of counties to tax certain reservation lands. The Supreme Court ruled against the tribe in a unanimous decision.

But to supporters, this record is what makes him especially qualified. Citing his experience with treaty rights, environmental law and electoral issues -- he handled elections for Gorton's successor -- he has won endorsements from news outlets throughout the state, including The Seattle Times.

"He knows the law of fish and wildlife, of hydroelectric dams, Indian treaty rights and, most of all, elections," the paper said in its October 15 issue.

The race is non-partisan but Johnson has major Republican support, including Gorton. His opponent is Mary Fairhurst, who currently works in the attorney general's office.

So far, 10 tribes have raised about $40,000 for the campaign.

Watch the Ad:
Washington State Supreme Court election 2002 (FAEP)

More Information:
Seattle Times Profile: Jim Johnson | Seattle Post-Intelligencer Feature on Race

Relevant Links:
First Americans Education Project -
Jim Johnson -

Related Stories:
Wash. tribes oppose judicial candidate (10/25)