Thursday, November 09, 2006

Less money needed for Dems to target CCA, judicial races

Responding to this Grits post yesterday about J.R. Molina's strong electoral showing against Sharon Keller, incumbent presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA), Rev. Alan Bean asked where would the money come from to run judicial candidates in Texas? I responded there, but decided the issue was worthy of its own blog post.

That's actually another great strategic reason for Democrats to go after these judicial races - they're a LOT cheaper. I'm no fundraiser, but I've worked on dozens of campaigns, and Alan's right that money matters. So why don't Dems hit them where they're weakest? Perry can raise 8 figures. None in the CCA raised even six figures - they just rely on Rs downballot pull. Plus they've disgraced themselves so badly it'd be hard for them to fundraise if they had to, IMO.

As for where would the D money come from, answer #1 in judicial races must be lawyers. The criminal defense bar doesn't have that much money, though there are a few deep pockets and lots of $250-$500 donations to be had. But district and circuit judges hear both crimnal and civil cases, so that should retain the trial lawyers' interest. O'Quinn, Baron, et. al. showed they could pour millions into the governor's race when they finally thought Bell had a chance (he might have, actually, if they'd done it earlier).

Who knows? If the GOP continues its immigration bashing, there's always these guys.

But money's a great argument for Democrats going after these down-ballot court races. They don't cost as much to run. Honestly, given these numbers, there's a chance Molina would have beat Keller if he'd just behaved like a real candidate, run a few ads, and shown up at newspaper editorial board meetings. The newspapers all wanted to endorse someone besides her - Molina literally didn't give them an option by not campaigning.

A serious candidate could have won. Indeed, if the John O'Quinns and Fred Barons of the world had skipped the Governor's race and dropped a million bucks or two into a PAC for electing Democratic judicial candidates at all levels - turning Judge Keller and the ignominious CCA into judicial poster children for the whole lot of R judges statewide - it would do more to rejuvenate the Democratic Party than helping Chris Bell hit the high twenties instead of the low twenties. Who knows, maybe that strategy could have tipped those razor-thin district judge races in Houston?

There's always next time. Did I mention three more CCA incumbents come up in 2008, and lots of downballot judges, too?


Anonymous said...

Karl Rove started with the Texas Supreme Court, and used it as a foothold to take over Texas. We can do the same with the benches. If more Texans knew what a scandal the CCA is more are likely to vote for change. Word can also be gotten out through earned media (not just candidate advertisements).

In addition to the CCA we should be worrying about the courts of appeals. Beaumont has already gone R. Corpus elected an R, San Antonio went all R, and Austin (for Pete's sake!) went 3 out of 4 R.

A little money could go a long way in these races -- for the Ds and for some good old fashioned justice!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog. You are so correct. I would like to add that fear of retaliation from the Republican-controlled Judicial System is the primary reason many lawyers don't give money to democratic candidates, at least in Harris County, TX.

Can you post a list of judicial seats up for grabs in '08? There is much work to be done!