University of Houston, asserts, “Rodriguez likely would have won if he had more money to tell voters that he was the choice of the Republican establishment” -- Rodriguez gained 68% of the vote in counties where he spent heavily on TV advertising -- “[or] if his parents named him Billy Bob.” John Williams, Name Game Costs GOP Candidate, Houston Chronicle, March 25, 2002.
Article reports that campaign contributions have become the focus of debate in a Texas Supreme Court Republican primary runoff. Judge Elizabeth Ray has been attacked by Texans for Lawsuit Reform for the level of contributions she has received from plaintffs’ attorneys. Trial lawyers are the source for 83%, or $182,000, of her campaign funds. Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice retorts that the contributions show “she’s not locked into an anti-consumer, pro- tort reform agenda.” Judge Ray adds that she has received contributions from many of the defense funds that support her opponent, Judge Dale Wainwright. Laylan Copelin, Campaign Donations a Focus in GOP Runoff, Austin American- Statesman, March 27, 2002.
Article discusses the upcoming general elections for the Texas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In the GOP primaries, incumbents won handily for the most part. Anthony Champagne, Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas, Dallas, opines that the general election will be far more competitive: “I think it will be a much meaner kind of election than we’ve had in the past. [The Democratic party has] got serious candidates running. They’ve got more than people running on the popularity of their names.” In the 2000 races, the party did not field any candidates for the state Supreme Court races. This year, five Democrats are vying for seats on the High Court, four of whom are sitting judges. Max Baker, Incumbent Judges Sweep GOP Runoffs, Fort Worth Star- Telegram, April 9, 2002.
68. Op-ed by Thomas Phillips, Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, warns that “for several reasons, modern campaigns are making [elected] judges into ordinary politicians and that such a conversion threatens our legal system.” First, the cost of judicial campaigns has risen precipitously. A report from the Brennan Center for Justice, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and Justice at Stake finds that campaign spending rose by 61% from 1998 to 2000. Another problem stems from “outside groups . . . engaging in ‘slash and trash’ media blitzes” in order to obtain a bench that will forward their agenda. Professor Anthony Champagne of the University of Texas, Dallas found that in the four states with the highest levels of competition for High Court seats, interest groups accounted for nearly half of all campaign advertising. These trends have eroded public confidence in the judiciary, with over two-thirds of voters believing that judges are influenced by campaign contributions. To strengthen the appearance of impartiality, Chief Justice Phillips asserts that, at a bare minimum, judicial elections should be subject to tight contribution limits and stringent disclosure