Candidates had to file with the political parties by the close of business on Monday. The parties have ten days to get their ballots formalized and into the state's hands. And many candidates — two-thirds of the House, for instance — file with their local party officials instead of going to the state office. Those locals operate at what you might call different levels of efficiency, and not all of their candidate lists are available. The lists — and our database that results from them — will have some nicks and dents until the process is over.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Most appellate court races not competitive outside Houston
Now that filing deadline has past, I'm disappointed to see that Dems fielded no additional candidates besides Keith Hampton for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals this year, though they've got horses in all the Supreme Court of Texas races, including Bill Moody who topped all Democratic statewide vote-getters in 2006. (I predict Moody and Hampton will top all other D vote-getters in the November election.)
At the appeals court level, the majority of incumbents got a pass and only three of the 14 courts will see more than one contested general election. Seven appellate courts won't have any contested general election races at all, demonstrating that the practice of gerrymandering "safe" districts isn't limited to legislative seats.
The dearth of candidates also demonstrates that the Democrats' inability to find strong contenders extends to judicial races on the appellate level. It's particularly pathetic that Dems couldn't find someone willing to run against Larry Meyers on the CCA.
By far, the most action among appellate court races comes at the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeal in Houston.
The First Court boasts the most interesting judicial race in the state (to me, anyway), with Democrat and former Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Morris Overstreet challenging incumbent Chief Justice Sherry Radack, whose husband is a Harris County Commissioner. Two other Republicans on the court - Evelyn Keyes and Michael Massengale - drew both primary and general election opponents. At the 14th Court of Appeals there will also be three competitive general election races and one contested Republican primary for an open seat.
In each of the last two election cycles, First and Fourteenth Court general elections have been decided by one or two percentage points, making these races extremely competitive heading into November.
There are also two competitive general election races in the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas, with Lawrence Praeger and Bonnie Lee Goldstein challenging incumbents Robert Filmore and Lara Myers, respectively. These appellate seats did not flip to Democrats along with county-level judicial seats in Dallas' 2006 and 2008 elections, but they've been getting more competitive and last go-round GOP incumbents barely fended off Dem challengers by a roughly 52-48 margin, putting them within striking distance depending on the dynamics of the race.
On the Third Court of Appeals out of Austin, Democrat Kurt Kuhn will face the winner of a primary battle between Melissa Goodwyn and Scott Field for an open seat in what will likely be a hotly contested race. Another possible close one may be Democrat Rebecca Martinez's challenge to incumbent Marialyn Barnard at the Fourth Court of Appeals in in San Antonio.
I'd be surprised if any of the other races in the appellate courts ended up being competitive in November. I don't know enough about the candidates to guess whether any GOP primary challenges might succeed. That said, as Ross Ramsey at the Texas Tribune noted, the list of candidates may still be incomplete:
And of course, there'll be a lot more action, too, in local criminal court races, to which I have only begun to pay closer attention. Perhaps the most immediate question: Will Harris County Democrats' judicial gains from 2008 continue in a mid-term election, or will the GOP stage a comeback?
Overall, with the exception of races for the Houston courts, the Dems half-assed slate in appellate court races reminds me of Jim Hightower's old quip that if God had intended people to vote, He'd have given them candidates.
See related Grits posts: