Nearly all of the judicial primary action this year is on the Republican side, since nearly all of the incumbents running for re-election are Democrats; there are no contested Democratic primaries for the few Republican-held benches. The one contested Democratic judicial primary is a challenge to a sitting judge, Judge Steven Kirkland on the 215th Civil District Court, and it’s been a high profile race with a lot of money in it as I noted on Sunday. The Chron has given their endorsement for this race to Judge Kirkland.
Elaine H. Palmer’s run against Kirkland is being financed almost exclusively by local plaintiff attorney George Fleming, who not incidentally lost a major judgment in the 215th court that could cost his firm millions of dollars.
Palmer, a 14-year attorney with a blended civil, criminal and traffic/misdemeanor practice, appears to be the chosen instrument of Fleming’s effort to oust Kirkland. Fleming’s law firm and a PAC he funds have contributed $35,000 to Palmer’s primary campaign.
An unintended consequence of Palmer’s candidacy to the county Democratic Party, well explained by Chronicle columnist Patricia Kilday Hart (“A little mystery over primary opposition to judge,” Page B1, April 19), is the clear potential it has brought for creation of a schism between the party’s crucial black and GLBT voting blocs. This would be destructive to Democrats well beyond a single contested primary race for a civil court bench.
Either way, we conclude, Palmer is the apparently unwitting partner to potentially damaging mischief to both Kirkland and the local Democratic Party.
And so we offer our emphatic endorsement of Steven Kirkland in the May 29 Democratic primary. We strongly encourage the party’s voters to support this highly qualified, deserving candidate.
That $35K figure was accurate for the January finance report. It’s up to $47K now with the 30 Day report added in, and I won’t be surprised if there’s more in the 8 Day report. Palmer could certainly turn out to be a decent judge if she gets elected, but this isn’t the way to go about doing that. We can get into the whole debate about electing versus appointing judges again, but to my mind if you’re going to elect judges, or if you’re going to appoint them and then have retention elections, then make them publicly funded and bar all contributions above some token amount, say $250. I cannot think of any valid reason why anyone who might have business to conduct in a given courtroom would contribute five figures or more to the election or defeat of that courtroom’s judge. That’s an issue for the Lege to deal with. In the meantime, I join the Chron in endorsing Judge Kirkland, and I hope you’ll vote for him as well.