Gay Alameda County judicial candidate leads despite controversy

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 6, 2024
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Alameda County Court Commissioner Mark Fickes. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
Alameda County Court Commissioner Mark Fickes. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

It looks like a gay court commissioner will be ascending to a judgeship in Alameda County, despite an ethical controversy that marred the campaign.

Alameda County Court Commissioner Mark Fickes was leading attorney Michael Johnson, 56.8%-43.1%, according to March 5 preliminary results from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. The Seat No. 12 race was the only contested judicial contest on the East Bay county's ballot.

Johnson told the Bay Area Reporter that "the initial numbers are not what we had hoped for, but I am very proud of the campaign that we ran and I am very grateful for the support that we received from so many people."

Fickes, who had lost a 2020 bid for a judge seat, did not return a request for comment. He hasn't talked to the B.A.R. since he told the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee in January that he voted for District Attorney Pamela Price in 2022 while seeking its endorsement. The county party did vote to endorse Fickes — including with a yes vote from Price, who is an elected member of the committee.

This led to accusations that he violated judicial ethics both by Johnson and others.

Price's assistant district attorneys appear in county criminal courts, and she is also currently the subject of a recall effort, which was initiated last October. On Monday, recall proponents submitted 123,000 signatures, well over the 73,000 needed. Those signatures will now be reviewed by elections officials. If the recall petition is certified, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors would set a special election.

Guidelines on campaigning prepared for judicial candidates by the California Judges Association's Committee on Judicial Ethics state that "candidates may not make statements that commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies, or issues that could come before the courts."

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