By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Forty-eight members of the bar association rated Payne more qualified than county hearings examiner Mark Nichols, former chief deputy prosecuting attorney.
The candidates were rated after a June 20 forum on their judgment and objectivity, demeanor and temperament, competence, experience and legal ability, and overall performance.
With a score of 1 being unqualified and 4 being exceptionally well-qualified, Payne bested Nichols 3.13 to 1.67 in overall performance in the poll.
“I'm humbled by the confidence the members of the bar association show in my work as prosecuting attorney and am pleased to see they believe I am the best qualified to continue in that role,” Payne said.
Nichols said he was “neither disappointed nor surprised at the rankings.
“I participated in the local bar association's forum expecting this result, as it has a demonstrated history of disparaging even qualified elected officials, such as [Clallam County District Court 1] Judge Rick Porter, in these polls.”
Two of the three county commissioners voted in January to appoint Payne as the county's chief lawyer. Former county Prosecutor Deb Kelly retired Dec. 31 with one year left on her four-year term.
Nichols, Kelly's longtime chief deputy, served as acting county prosecutor until Payne took the oath of office Jan. 27.
Commissioners Mike Doherty and Jim McEntire voted to appoint Payne to the position, with Commissioner Mike Chapman supporting Nichols, in a heated debate.
Nichols was appointed as county hearings examiner by Chapman and McEntire, with Doherty opposed, in another contentious board meeting.
Payne, 57, and Nichols, 42, are both Republicans.
They will face off in the Nov. 4 general election regardless of the results in the Aug. 5 primary election.
The Clallam County Bar Association sent 76 surveys to dues-paying members after the closed-door political forum last month.
A score of 2 was considered qualified; a 3 was well-qualified.
Here's how they scored:
■ Judgment and objectivity: Payne, 3.04; Nichols, 1.54.
■ Demeanor and temperament: Payne, 3.25; Nichols, 1.71.
■ Competence, experience and legal ability: Payne, 2.94; Nichols, 1.75.
■ Overall performance: Payne, 3.13; Nichols, 1.67.
Nichols said he was disappointed that the bar association did not grant his request to open the forum to the general public.
“People will make up their own minds,” he said.
“They don't need a small group of lawyers telling them what to think and how to vote. They understand it is not the function of prosecutors or judges to win popularity contests with attorneys.
“Thus, I expect the bar association poll will have little to no effect on how folks vote in the primary and general elections.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.