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Tom Warwick, who was about to spice things up in a judicial race as the first career criminal-defense attorney in 20 years with a fighting chance at being elected to the Superior Court bench, has decided to bow out.

Ernie Carrillo, president of the Deputy Sheriffs Association of San Diego County, said Warwick called him Tuesday to say he would no longer need an endorsement and that he would be seeking a judicial appointment from the governor instead.

“He’s going to submit his name,” Carrillo said. “What’s going to happen is, probably he’s going to get appointed. He’s very well-connected. This guy’s a preeminent lawyer. He knows everybody.”

Warwick’s closest advisors, including numerous judges, urged him to withdraw, Carrillo said. He declined to disclose Warwick’s reasoning.

Though Warwick, one of San Diego’s best-known attorneys, had lined up support from 40 judges, former Sheriff Bill Kolender and potentially the deputy sheriffs union, it is very difficult to win against a prosecutor. Former prosecutors dominate the bench in San Diego.

“Those who know him told him, ‘Why run? Just put your name in,’” Carrillo said. He said the two laughed about the rigors of fundraising: “He decided to just list his name instead. It saves all his friends money.”

When asked whether he would seek an appointment, and whether he had sought support from influential lawyers such as District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis for that purpose, Warwick would say only this: “I am not going to be running for election. I have not cut any deals at all. That’s all I’m going to say on the subject.”

Judges are appointed when a seat becomes vacant before the six-year term is up; an election is held when a judge either leaves office at the end of his or her term or seeks reelection and has a challenger.

Warwick’s most formidable opponent in the race was Deputy District Attorney Richard Monroy, the respected former head of the deputy district attorneys union who has held significant posts managing the gang and special operations units. Like Warwick, Monroy also had the endorsement of Kolender and numerous judges. Monroy also had Dumanis and a major peace officers association.

A couple other candidates have recently entered the race: Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen P. Clark, and private civil attorney Jim Miller.

The seat up for grabs belongs to retiring Judge Robert Coates, who decided not to run after he was disciplined by the state Commission on Judicial Performance for sending personal letters on court letterhead.

Last week we detailed how Warwick was about to make things interesting in a judicial race for once. Typically, they are handled behind the scenes through endorsements and little real competition emerges at the ballot box.

The Union-Tribune first reported on Warwick’s withdrawal earlier today.

— KELLY THORNTON

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