Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Attack of the Killer Ads: GOP breaks out long knives in Dallas judicial campaigns

With Dallas County poised to vote in a slew of Democratic candidates for the first time in more than a generation, it shouldn't be surprising the GOP is running vicious attack advertising - mostly direct mail so far - against Democratic judicial candidates in the closing week of the campaign. I've not seen the hit pieces in question, but Mark Donald in the Oct. 30 Texas Lawyer (subscription only) thinks the attacks go beyond the pale. Since I've not followed the races closely I'll just recite his analysis:
In all my years as a voter, which are many, I can't recall reading a direct mail piece that was so negative or left me feeling so dispirited about the future of judicial elections, as the one I read last week with less than two weeks left in this election cycle. This mailer happened to be a Republican attack piece, but there seems to be little preventing the Democrats from doing the same, if they should some day find themselves running scared and desperate to hold onto power. On its face, the ad says it was paid for by the Republican Party of Texas, but the two Republican judges with whom I spoke said the ad money sprang from the pockets of those GOP judges running for office.

In big bold letters, the top of the mailer frames the question: "What incriminating clues link these UNUSUAL SUSPECTS?" Then in a smaller font, the ad reads, "Local Democrats have lined up the worst group of judicial candidates in Texas history. They hope national politics will help them sweep our local courts."

To me, this last line sounds a bit hypocritical, since in the 1980s many Republicans challenging the Democratic dominance in the Dallas County courthouses depended on the Reagan Revolution "to help them sweep our local courts."

Below this line is a photo of what pretends to be a criminal line-up: five white guys in suits, four of whom carry briefcases, all of whom have a black bar covering their eyes, as if insisting upon disguising their identities so they don't incriminate themselves.

Their identities are further obfuscated by copy, which singles out unnamed "Democrat candidates" who have committed an assortment of alleged wrongs, qualification disqualifiers and bad career moves. "Several represent serial rapists and child molesters," says the ad, as if being a criminal-defense attorney poses an absolute bar to judicial office.

"The Republicans have pretty much accused us of being criminals and thugs," says Larry Mitchell, a Democrat running for a seat on the 292nd District Court.

Using the partisan jargon of Republican true-believers, the mailer touts the qualifications of Dallas County Republican judges, saying they have 550 years of combined bench experience "protecting our families and property." Also they are tough on criminals, don't legislate from the bench and stop frivolous suits.

"That depends on how you define a frivolous lawsuit," says Darlene Ewing, a Dallas solo and chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party. "The Dallas County Democratic Party was sued seven times by Republican judges trying to throw Democratic candidates off the ballot this election cycle. They lost each one. I call those frivolous lawsuits."
Thanks to Susan for the tip.


123txpublicdefender123 said...

At least two of those Democrats running for judge who represented serial rapists and child molesters are public defenders, who, ironically, represented those people because they were ORDERED to do so by a sitting Republican judge. Perhaps any judge who appoints someone charged with being a child molester an attorney should be ousted, too! Damn the 6th Amendment!

800 pound gorilla said...

I believe that Ed Meese summed up GOP attitudes best: "If you're a suspect then you're guilty." I believe that when Roddenberry created the Cardassian system of justice [guilty until proven innocent beyond a doubt] he was thinking about Meese and the type of mentality that the GOP preaches. A Republican is a liberal who just got mugged and a Democrat is a conservative who just got arrested. Once you're arrested, charged and your name is in the paper you've been convicted in most eyes. That's what I hate about child custody battles: it's so easy to ruin the other parent's life with gratuitous charges and innuendo with these attitudes.