Controversial Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep Holds Lead Over Challengers

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Judge Gary Kreep. File photo from KPBS broadcast

Voters may not be heeding data published by the San Diego County Bar Association on seven candidates who are vying for two San Diego Superior Court judicial seats.

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In the unusual five-way race for office no. 37, San Diego Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep holds a wide lead over challengers Deputy District Attorney Matt Brower, state Deputy Attorney General Tim Nader, retired Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Miller and criminal defense/civil trial attorney Victor Torres.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting — but many mail ballots not yet counted — Kreep leads Brower 31.6 percent to 26.2 percent.

Miller, Torres and Nader are each below 20 percent of votes counted.

The number of Kreep challengers followed a “severe public censure” of the judge last year by the Commission on Judicial Performance. Although he was not removed from the bench, the commission found he showed a pattern of misconduct and lacked judicial temperament.

The San Diego County Bar Association evaluated all of the judicial candidates on the June 5 ballot and last month published its ratings of the contenders, which ranged from “lacking qualifications” to “exceptionally qualified.”

Kreep was the only candidate found by the bar to be lacking qualifications.

With just 50.04 percent of the vote in 2012, Kreep narrowly won election to the bench over attorney Garland Peed.

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In the two-way race for office no. 28, Hon. Herbert J. Exarhos holds a commanding lead of 64.7 percent. Valley Center family law attorney Vicki Rothman was the only challenger to Exarhos, who has been on the bench since 1987.

Of 47 Superior Court judges up for re-election in San Diego County this year, only Kreep and Exarhos faced opposition. The other 45 sitting judges did not appear on the ballot because they were declared election winners by default of having no opponents.

According to the San Diego County Bar Association ratings, Exarhos was “exceptionally qualified” for the office he was re-elected into.

The SDCBA evaluations concluded the following for all the 2018 candidates:

Matthew Brower: Qualified
Hon. Herbert J. Exarhos: Exceptionally Qualified
Hon. Gary G. Kreep: Lacking Qualifications
Steve Miller: Qualified
Timothy J. Nader: Well Qualified
Vicki Rothman: Qualified
Victor Manuel Torres: Exceptionally Qualified

State Court judges in California serve six-year terms and are elected by county voters on a nonpartisan ballot at a general election. Vacancies are filled through appointment by the Governor. At the end of each term, judges must seek re-election and attorneys are able to run for open seats.

–Toni McAllister

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