Contested judge race in San Mateo County takes an interesting turn

Judge candidates and incumbent

Daily Post Staff Writer

A contested judge race on the June ballot in San Mateo County took an interesting turn yesterday when one of the two candidates challenging Judge Gerald Buchwald said he won’t remain in the race if Buchwald decides to run for re-election.

Michael Wendler, a San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney, said he’s out if Buchwald stays in the race. Buchwald has until the March 9 filing deadline to decide.

“I have great respect for our courts and Judge Buchwald, who I have known for over a decade,” Wendler said. “If Judge Buchwald ultimately decides he will run for re-election, I will not submit nominating papers and will not be on the ballot.”

If the 70-year-old Buchwald decides to step down, then Wendler will stay in the race and face Richard Wilson, 63, of San Carlos. Wilson is running whether or not Buchwald runs for re-election.

Wilson retired last July as senior counsel for the UC system, where he oversaw the system’s claims and lawsuits from the university’s medical departments and hospitals.

Wilson told the Post yesterday (Feb. 8) that he has nothing against Buchwald. But he decided to run because Buchwald, to his knowledge, has never been challenged in an election, and is among the longest serving judges up for election this year.

Wilson said he went to the courthouse and observed most of the judges presiding over cases and did research on them before deciding to challenge Buchwald.

“Frankly he’s been on the bench for a long time and is quite senior in the courts and I think an unchallenged incumbency is not always in the public interest and a challenge from time to time is healthy,” Wilson said.

Buchwald, a Hillsborough resident, was first appointed to the bench in April 2005 by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Prior to that he was a partner at Redwood City firm Robers, Majecki, Kohn and Bentley.

It is unusual in San Mateo County for there to be a contested race with a sitting judge. Typically, voters only see a contested judge race on the ballot when at least two candidates are running for a seat that’s been vacated by a judge who has decided not to seek re-election. That happened in 2014 when San Mateo County Deputy DA Stephanie Garratt and then-Daly City councilman Ray Buenaventura ran against one another, and Garratt won.