Monday, November 05, 2012

Hampton candidacy v. Keller reliant on Gods of Down-Ballot Ticket Splitting

Grits has predicted for years that if and when Democrats finally win a statewide race in Texas, odds are the first one will be on the Court of Criminal Appeals, where Republican candidates routinely poll several points lower than statewide candidates atop the ticket. In that light, Keith Hampton's challenge to Presiding Judge Sharon Keller on that court will be worth watching.

As demographics begin to narrow partisan results in Texas, IMO judges on the state's two high courts will be the first statewide pols to become vulnerable, with Judge Keller and Co. providing a more inviting and cost-effective target of opportunity whenever Democrats decide to make a serious go of it (this, for whatever reason, was not that cycle). During the last presidential election in 2008, incumbent CCA Judge Tom Price won with just 51.6%, a lower figure than statewide candidates at the top of the ticket (McCain took 55.4% of the statewide vote; Sen. John Cornyn got 54.7%), but still higher than Democrat Susan Strawn's 46.4%. Tom Price, though came with none of Judge Keller's baggage, and Strawn's spending in that race was negligible compared to statewide candidates further up the ballot.

Keith Hampton's campaign has garnered support from a variety of unlikely editorial boards - including the Bryan College-Station Eagle and the Amarillo Globe News - not to mention larger papers from the Dallas Morning News , the Ft. Worth Star Telegram , and the Houston Chronicle. His hometown paper, the Wichita Falls Times Record-News, has a flattering feature on his candidacy today. Hampton has tried as well as he could to make hay of the "We close at 5" episode and the fact that Judge received the largest ever fine ($100K) from the Texas Ethics Commission.

On its face, the prevalence of straight ticket voting and a Libertarian alternative makes Hampton's challenge an uphill fight in 2012. OTOH, this is Keller's first electoral test after the the state's guardians of judicial ethics accused her of misconduct, only to see their result thrown out because of an improperly lenient penalty. So I'm pleased a credible candidate stepped up to challenge Keller (as seriously as one can spending $80,000 in a statewide race, if a recent Texas Tribune report is accurate). My father likes to say "there's never been a horse that can't be rode, never been a cowboy can't be throwed," and at least Hampton had the gumption for two cycles in a row to climb up into the saddle. May the Gods of Down-Ballot Ticket Splitting smile favorably upon him tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Tom Price was weak in 2008 for one simple reason. He's a RINO. He's vocally advocated for a death penalty moratorium. He took on Keller before in her race for chief justice and got stomped. He's also one of the most consistently liberal votes on the court. Believe it or not, some Republicans do pay attention to those sorts of things.

Keller, on the other hand, is "law and order" to the core. She will not lose many (if any) conservative votes for closing the clerk's office at 5:00 on the night of an execution. I'd be willing to bet that she beats Hampton by at least 10 percentage points if not more.

Anonymous said...

It will not even be close. Hampton's getting stomoped. He can thank Obama for it.

Anonymous said...

What happens to pending cases if a judge is not reflected? Especially those that have had oral arguments?

Anonymous said...

Sorry that last question should have said "reelected" not "reflected"

Phillip Baker said...

1225- What a sad commentary on the state of this once great state, that a judge who refused to follow court protocol in a death case (She had a repairman coming!), then lied about her assets to skate from paying for her own defense would be MORE popular with conservatives. Clearly principled conservatism is dead.

12:45- What possible connection to this race involves Obama? Next conservatives will be blaming Obama for wild fires in Indonesia. Jeez!

Blue_in_Guadalupe said...

So Anonymous 11/05/2012 12:25:00 PM exactly how does being willing to allow people to die by the state's hand make a judge conservative. I thought conservatives were pro-life and anti-statist. What could be more statist than taking a human life? I wonder what Todd Cameron Willingham and the others who have been innocent and still executed would have to say about it.

Anonymous said...

"Keller, on the other hand, is "law and order" to the core."

Which is more important for a judge: A. being Law and Order to the Core (or in other words tough on crime), or B. being fair and just and upholding the constitution and the law.

Can a judge be both? I think so. Is Keller, probably not. I'd rather have a judge who is fair and attempts to apply the law in a just manner and who steadfastly upholds the constitution. If they do that, there will be no need to worry about whether they are "law and order to the core."

ckikerintulia said...

Unfortunately for justice in Texas, Keller won that race. Why? Because she is a Republican. It's unfortunate that judges are elected on a party label.

Anonymous said...

Well, you anti-Keller bleeding hearts can cry in your beer right along with all of us anti-Obama voters. Shit happens. The bottom line in Texas (whether you want to believe it or not) is that judges are not going to lose many votes from being pro-death penalty and tough on crime.

@Blue, it's not difficult at all being pro-death penalty and pro-life at the same time. Personally, I'm not staunchly anti-abortion and believe there are, within some limits, any number of reasons why an abortion should be legally justified. Just like killing in self-defense. For the real anti-abortion crowd, I think it boils down to abortion being about the killing of "innocent" life. Whether you believe Texas has ever executed an innocent, it is beyond question that death row inmates receive a considerable amount of "due process."

At any rate, anyone who thought that Hampton was going to get any mileage in Texas out of Keller closing the clerk's office on time on an execution day was just living in dreamland. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if that action actually got her MORE votes!

Anonymous said...

"Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if that action actually got her MORE votes!"

I guess lying about her finances also helped. What does that say about the voters of Texas. Was it Jefferson that said, in a democracy the people get the government they deserve. People have no right to complain about crooked politicians when they repeatedly vote for them.

BTW, it seems to me if you were truly "tough on crime" you wouldn't want a politician who committed a crime to be reelected. If you like to vote for criminals that would make you soft on crime, wounldn't it?

Anonymous said...

As I said: "STOMPED"

When he picked the "D" label, his fate was sealed.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see Keller reelected if the only option was to put a Democrat in her place.

Also, it was great to see Henson get kicked off the Third Court. She is terribly partisan and radically extreme. Good riddance.