Wills to take appointed seat on bench
Hood and Hornik face runoff in November.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Just after 3am on Election Night, only one thing is certain in the race for Monterey County Superior Court Judge: Frontrunner Tom Wills’ name will not be on the November ballot.
This is not to say he lost the race: In fact, Wills leads the pack of four candidates vying for the job. Wills’ closest opponent, Mark Hood, trails by 1,140 votes, Todd Hornik is 3,511 votes behind Wills, and Luma Serrano Williams follows Wills by 4,795 votes.
Without a simple majority, 50 percent plus one, Wills and Hood would normally face a November runoff. But because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger trumped the electorate and appointed Wills to a different vacant seat on the bench two weeks ago, the next step is anything but normal. Wills will withdraw from the November race and accept the governor’s appointment.
“I will take the appointed seat,” Wills says. “You can only keep the governor waiting for so long.”
Hood, a Santa Clara County prosecutor, and Hornik, a Monterey County prosecutor, will look forward to a November runoff election.
Despite having a job on the bench regardless of how the elected turned out on Tuesday night, Wills says it’s nice to have voters’ affirmation. “It’s the result of dealing with people for 30 years,” he says.
About a dozen people gather in a south Salinas home to wait for returns with Wills. It isn’t a party-till-the-sun-comes-up group. Most of the time it is so quiet that the click and flash of the photographer’s camera are startling. “I’m losing the best partner a lawyer could ever have,” Wills’ long-time law partner Denise Benoit says. “He’s my friend.”
The emotion seems to catch up with Wills, too. “It’s a new chapter for me. It’s a pay cut, too,” he chuckles. “But I am definitely a more fulfilled man today.”
Across the county in Pacific Grove, Hood talks quietly so as not to wake the kids. “I’m pretty honored and humbled right now,” Hood says of his respectable second-place win and spot on the November ballot.
By late Tuesday, Wills is clear who will get his support once he takes the bench and is officially out of the race: “Hood. Definitely.”