Candidates for Oregon Supreme Court feud over experience

Candidates for Oregon Supreme Court feud over experience
Richard Baldwin and Nena Cook are competing for an open seat on Oregon's Supreme Court. (Photos: Oregon's Voters' Pamphlet)

The campaign for an open seat on Oregon's highest court has taken an unusually combative tone.

The two candidates — Multnomah County Circuit Judge Richard Baldwin and Portland attorney Nena Cook — are taking potshots at each other over their experience. They have even tried to one-up each other over their up-from-under, working-class backgrounds.

The winner will replace Justice Robert "Skip" Durham, who is retiring after 18 years on the bench.

Baldwin, who has been a judge for 11 years, has blasted Cook, 46, for inflating her resume, saying she exaggerated her experience prosecuting criminal cases in the Multnomah County district attorney's office by not disclosing in the state voters' pamphlet that it came while she was a law student. He says she also exaggerated the magnitude of her service as a backup judge since 2007.

"This kind of fabrication of credentials is egregious in any campaign, but is especially so from a candidate for the highest court in the state, where high ethical standards are an imperative," Portland lawyer Linda Love said in a statement on Baldwin's behalf.

Cook's campaign has replied that she had disclosed that her prosecution experience came as a law student in other forums, and that combined with her time as a pro-tem judge, that experience amounts to more hands-on work with criminal law than Baldwin has.

"If he's unable to make a clear case for himself without using half-truths about his opponent, how do Oregonians know he'll give them a fair hearing if he is elected to the Supreme Court," Cook campaign manager Christopher Proudfoot said in a statement.

Based on the results in the three-way primary last spring, Cook could be considered the front runner. She pulled 38 percent of the vote, versus Baldwin's 32 percent. But Baldwin leads in campaign contributions, $284,000 to $252,000.

And Baldwin, 65, is far ahead in the endorsement competition. He is backed by Democrats like former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and by 12 current and former judges on the state Court of Appeals. He also won the Oregon State Bar's preference poll.

Cook, 46, is backed by Republicans Dave Frohnmeyer, a former attorney general and University of Oregon president, former Gov. Vic Atiyeh, and 26 district attorneys from around the state.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.