Candidates line up for state Supreme Court seat after Justice Tom Chambers announces he won't run again.

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State Supreme Court Justice Tom Chambers announced Friday he won’t seek re-election when his second, six-year term expires at the end of the year.

John Ladenburg, Pierce County’s former prosecutor and former executive, said in early summer he would run for an open seat on the high court, suspecting that Chambers would not run again.

On Friday, Ladenburg was joined in the race by King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Hilyer, who announced his candidacy in a news release.

On Sunday, both campaigns can begin fundraising efforts.

There is speculation that former Justice Richard Sanders — who lost his 2010 re-election bid to Justice Charlie Wiggins — could also campaign for Chambers’ seat.

“I’ve been speculating about that, too. I haven’t made a final decision,” Sanders said Friday.

Justice Susan Owens, who has served on the high court since 2000, is also up for re-election. Justice Steven González, a former King County Superior Court judge who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Chris Gregoire in November to replace retiring Justice Gerry Alexander, will face voters for the first time in November.

So far, no one has stepped forward to challenge Owens or González, but the filing deadline for candidates is still months away.

First elected to the Supreme Court in 2000, Chambers, 68, started working in his father’s gas station in Wapato, Yakima County, when he was 12. Since then, he’s worked 50 to 60 hours a week and is looking forward to taking some time off and “doing something else.”

A pilot and master scuba diver with an affinity for motorcycles and vintage cars, Chambers said Friday he made the decision not to run for a third term after his last election in 2006.

“Judicial elections are becoming more and more politicized and less and less pleasant,” he said.

Chambers was a respected trial lawyer and a former president of the Washington State Bar Association before his election to the Supreme Court. He considers himself “a true independent” who favors open government and believes in protecting individual rights.

“I’m interested in protecting the individual. I think I do my very best job when I protect you … from your own government,” Chambers said.

His job, he said, is to uphold the law — even laws he doesn’t personally agree with, such as the death penalty.

“I read the law and followed the law as I read it and let the chips fall where they may,” Chambers said. “There are all kinds of laws I see that I think are awful, but I follow them because that’s my job.”

Chambers and his wife, Judy, have lived in the same house in Issaquah since 1979.

After his term expires at the end of December, Chambers will serve as a pro-tem justice until all of the cases he heard as a member of the nine-judge panel are resolved, a process he expects to last about a year.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or