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Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

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What to know about Super Tuesday’s Superior Court judicial races in Orange County

The most important seat in the courtroom can be the most vague position on your ballot. Here’s what to look for when researching these candidates.
Dylan Arreola
The North Justice Center in Fullerton handles traffic, minor offenses, criminal, limited civil and small claims hearings in its courtrooms.

It can be difficult following every single race in your upcoming local election. Voter turnout for local elections is on a major downturn. With more focus being put on national elections, there is less information put out on local politics. Voters find out less and less about their local races.

One of these races with vague information on its candidates is the Superior Court Judicial race in Orange County.

This year, there are three Orange County districts offices with judicial races, with two candidates running for their respective office in each one. That means six different names on the ballot to choose from.

Jodi Balma, an American Government professor at Fullerton College, hosts a podcast titled A Slice of Orange, and a youtube channel following local Orange County politics.

“I don’t think the voters have enough information to make a good decision, so unfortunately all too often we just vote for the job that people have,” said Balma in one of her youtube videos. “Deputy district attorney is a huge advantage, so they often win.”

Jodi Balma

A major easy-to-find resource to get a better understanding of a candidate, and how much they align with your expectations, is their website. Candidates give their message, events you can attend to see them in person and their endorsements.

Since judicial races are non-partisan, candidates don’t run for specific political parties. Endorsements from different politicians, organizations and newspapers can point to whose faith they have and where their values lie.

In office 3, Jason Baez is running for this seat. Baez, who is a Deputy District Attorney is endorsed by OC District Attorney Todd Spitzer, OC Sheriff Don Barnes, Orange County Supervisors Don Wagner and Doug Chaffee, Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS), Orange County Coalition of Police and Sheriffs (OC Cops), Orange County Labor Federation, amongst others.

Baez actively runs teams such as Vehicular Homicide Team, targeting DUI homicides, along with Gang/TARGET, Narcotics Enforcement Team, and Burglary Crews unit, that combats other serious crimes such as gang violence, robberies, homicides, and narcotics.

Dan Jacobson, a lawyer and law professor, is Baez’s challenger for this election. Some notable endorsements linked to him include Congressman Jamie Raskin, Congressman Ted Lieu, Reproductive Justice Advocate Sandra Fluke, Western States Regional Council of Carpenters, and more.

Jacobson says on his website he aims to utilize his experience in the court system, and in his personal life, to maintain a balanced approach to justice.

Deputy District Attorney Richard Zimmer is running for office 16. Some of his endorsements include OC District AttorneyTodd Spitzer, OC Sheriff Don Barnes, Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS), Orange County Coalition of Police and Sheriffs (OC Cops), and more.

Zimmer has over 20 years of legal experience as a prosecutor and attorney, and is the only judicial candidate to earn the “Exceptionally Well Qualified” rating from the Orange County Bar Association.

Attorney and public defender Binh Dang is the other competitor in this race. His notable endorsements are Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John David Lord, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Robert L. Villa, Former NHL Anaheim Ducks Player Emerson Etem, and more.

Dang and his parents are refugees from Vietnam. According to his website, his family has strived to live up to American values, and are heavily involved with their local community, especially in Little Saigon. To this day, he says he has instilled those same moral codes into his family, who are also active members of the city.

Office number 35 has Senior Deputy District Attorney Whitney Bokosky as one of the candidates. Her notable endorsements include OC District Attorney Todd Spitzer, OC Sheriff Don Barnes, Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS), Orange County Coalition of Police and Sheriffs (OC Cops), Orange County Labor Federation, and more.

Bokosky started as a prosecutor in 2006, conducting jury trials for violent crimes. According to her website,“After more than 20 misdemeanor trials, she was promoted and conducted 18 felony trials in less than 16 months including attempted murder, aggravated assault, lewd act on a child, carjacking, kidnapping, drug sales, vehicle theft, robbery, and child abuse.”

Her challenger is Family Law Attorney Daniel J. Kern. He suggests that Orange County needs less district attorneys as judges, as they do not have enough experience in litigations like he does. Kern’s team did not give a response when asked for a list of his endorsements, which are not listed on his website.

Every election year, the Orange County Bar Association releases an evaluation on the qualification of the candidates running for the judicial office. The OCBA’s website states their Judiciary Committee reviews a group of over 30 attorneys with at least 10 years of practice. They evaluate multiple personal and professional characteristics that can provide some insight into who candidates are heading into the election.

These evaluations are assigned individually as a rating ranging from Not Qualified, Qualified, Well Qualified, and Exceptionally Well Qualified.

“We need to look at them individually rather than blindly voting for the job… We still have this huge bias, and in the absence of information about candidates we vote based on their job, which perhaps is vastly overrepresented on our benches in the county of Orange,” said Balma.


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About the Contributor
Dylan Arreola
Dylan Arreola, Staff Reporter
Dylan Arreola is in his first semester working for The Hornet. He focuses on photography and arts. He enjoys backpacking and rock climbing in his free time.

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