Kern County Superior Court Judge Cory Woodward has resigned the job he’s been asking voters to give him all year.
In one month (or today, for those receiving mail-in ballots) Woodward’s name will be on the ballot beside opponent Tiffany Organ-Bowles as the incumbent candidate for his judgeship.
But he doesn’t want the job anymore.
Rumors started circulating last week that Woodward had resigned his seat on the bench.
He confirmed the facts in an e-mail statement Monday.
“After much prayer and consideration, I have decided to retire from the bench to accept another professional opportunity,” he wrote. “After more than 29 years as a prosecutor and as a judicial officer in the courtrooms of Kern County, I am deeply grateful for the opportunities of public service God has given me. I am equally grateful to all who have supported and encouraged me.”
The move creates something of a mess of one of the most competitive judgeship races in recent years.
Organ-Bowles, a deputy district attorney, and attorney Arturo Revelo challenged Woodward after he was censured for conducting an affair with his clerk while on the bench.
Woodward came in second in the primary, collecting 40.7 percent of the vote to Organ-Bowles’ 41.6 percent.
Even though he has resigned, his name will be on the ballot Nov. 8, said Kern County Elections Chief Karen Rhea.
And he could still win.
If he does, Woodward stated, “My intent would be to fulfill the commitment I’ve made to my new employer.”
That means his seat would be unfilled — and Organ-Bowles wouldn’t automatically fill it. Rhea said Gov. Jerry Brown would appoint a replacement for the seat.
Apparently Woodward began looking for a new job some time ago.
He applied several months ago for an attorney position in the Bakersfield office of the Office of Inspector General, Robert Barton, California’s Inspector General, confirmed Monday.
In fact, he applied for the job on June 26, 20 days after the primary election.
He’s already gone through state testing, oral exams and interviews with supervisors. Woodward is now undergoing a background check, Barton said.
“It was my understanding if he got this job, he would drop out of the race,” Barton said. “He’s waiting for a confirmed, firm offer.”
The OIG’s office knew Woodward was running for judge when he applied.
“He was asked about it,” Barton said. “Obviously he can’t do both jobs. If he got this job, it’s my understanding, he would prepare a statement” to voters and those who backed his race.
Barton, who worked with Woodward in the Kern County District Attorney’s office going back to the late 1980s, said he doesn’t blame Woodward for the timing.
“You don’t want to drop out of one job until you know you have another,” he said.
Barton said it’s been hard to fill his Bakersfield position because it requires at least eight years of litigation experience, doesn’t pay as much as other public attorney jobs and is often more rigorous, sometimes even requiring prison visits in the middle of the night.
In fact, the other three Bakersfield OIG attorneys are from other parts of the state.
The OIG attorney position would pay between $106,464 and $135,384 per year. Barton said that, typically, new attorneys start in the lower range and work their way up.
That’s a step down from a judge’s salary of about $188,000 per year.
It’s unclear how cases in the Mojave court will be handled with Woodward’s departure.
Only two other judges handle cases in that court: Bryan Stainfield, who has reportedly recused himself from a number of Ridgecrest cases, and Kenneth Pritchard, who is reportedly battling health issues.
Monday was a court holiday so Presiding Judge John Somers and Court Administrator Terry McNally were unavailable.
Woodward was endorsed by Somers, Stainfield and Pritchard and a number of other judges, according to his campaign web page.
Organ-Bowles said she had no hard information about Woodward’s status.
“Our campaign is proceeding,” she said. “I had assumed his was as well.”
She noted, however, that Woodward hadn’t shown up for four events in September where he had either been scheduled to appear or it was assumed he would appear.
There was no indication on Woodward’s campaign website Monday afternoon that he is abandoning the race, nor does such a notice appear on his campaign Facebook page, where his last post is dated Sept. 15.
Even so, when rumors began circulating late last week that Woodward intended to quit, Organ-Bowles’ staff checked the rules.
She still has to win the election. Otherwise, Woodward could retake his seat or the governor could appoint another person for that seat. Organ-Bowles has not applied to the California Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission to be vetted for possible appointment.“Our position is we are still campaigning heavily and getting to know Kern County voters,” she said. “We still have a race to win.”