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Endorsement watch: The Chron for Hampton

The Chron joins the DMN and the Star-Telegram in endorsing Keith Hampton for the Court of Criminal Appeals.

We highly recommend that voters cast their ballots instead for Democratic challenger Keith Hampton. This endorsement is not merely a rejection of the incumbent judge’s poor track record, but enthusiastic support for Hampton’s impressive history of working to improve the Texas judiciary, whether trying cases in courtrooms or shaping policy in Austin.

With experience ranging from criminal district courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court, Hampton has an extensive criminal defense track record that’s not common enough on the state’s highest criminal court. Endorsed by seven former state bar presidents, Hampton is respected across the political spectrum for his work and expertise. As governor, George W. Bush appointed Hampton to the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee to revise the Code of Criminal Procedure. And when he was on the Texas Supreme Court, John Cornyn appointed Hampton to the Supreme Court Jury Task Force.

Hampton also worked with state legislators to improve our judicial system, notably spearheading the creation of Veterans’ Courts in Texas – specialty courts that handle veterans suffering from service-related injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, who are prone to violence or drug use.

One would be hard pressed to find a better candidate for the Court of Criminal Appeals.

As you might expect, the Chron began their piece with the usual airing of grievances against Sharon Keller, before noting that their recommendation of Hampton was based on more than just her long list of sins. It must be noted that Keller does have some positive accomplishments in her tenure as judge, mostly having to do with the state’s Indigent Defense Task Force. But whatever positive qualities she must have had to bring to that work, they have been consipcuously absent in her judicial record, and it is by that record that we judge her. By any accounting of that record, she fails as a judge, and it is only right to vote her off the bench. As I said before, it should be the case that editorial boards across the state reach that conclusion.

And if they do, will it make any difference? I asked that question back in 2006, when Democratic Supreme Court candidate Bill Moody swept the newspaper endorsements against underqualified Perry appointee Don Willett. My conclusion at the time was that all things being equal it was worth a few percentage points in the final tally. That was six years ago, in an election that had relatively low turnout and low levels of partisan fervor, neither of which are or will be true this year. Still, given that each endorsement is also an opportunity to remind people of Keller’s awful record, I do figure it will make some difference, and in an election where 48% of the vote may well be enough to win, every little bit helps. We’ll see how it turns out.

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