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Larry Meyers

Endorsement watch: CCA

The Chron makes its recommendations for the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Judge Larry Meyers

Judge Larry Meyers

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 2: Lawrence “Larry” Meyers

Accusing someone of having “the feels” seems more at home in a teenager’s Facebook argument than in a dissenting opinion from the Court of Criminal Appeals, but that’s what Judge Lawrence “Larry” Meyers wrote in State v. Furr, alleging that his colleagues cared more about their feelings on the case than the objective standards of law. After 24 years on this bench, the long-serving member of Texas’ highest criminal court has certainly given up on the usual collegiality.

“We’re not there to get along,” Meyers, 68, said during a meeting with the Chronicle editorial board. “We’re there to do the right thing under the law.”

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 5: Scott Walker

Consider this race as evidence against electing judges.

Democrats are offering a candidate who was removed from the Bexar County appointed attorney list after she refused to represent defendants who wouldn’t plead guilty – Betsy Johnson.

Republicans are running a Dallas-area defense attorney with a politically famous name and no record of public service – Scott Walker.

We were ready to toss this one up or take a look at third-party candidates, but in his meeting with the Chronicle editorial board, Walker demonstrated a workman’s experience in the criminal court trenches that earned our endorsement.

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 6: Robert Burns

It doesn’t take a deep look at the Texas judiciary to see that the prosecutor’s office is often the first step towards earning a bench. The relationship between district attorneys, police and judges is a tight one, and years of wearing the black robes can give even the most dedicated neutral arbiter an unconscious tunnel vision that undermines fairness in our criminal justice system.

Robert Burns, who was first elected to a Dallas County criminal district court in 2006, understands that problem well.

“Too many judges want to side with the state or the police and not be fair and impartial,” Burns, 52, told the Houston Chronicle editorial board. “Just call it right down the middle. Be fair, and when you do make procedural decisions, make sure they’re decisions that result in guilty people getting convicted and innocent people being set free.”

Meyers is the only statewide Democrat in office, having switched parties in 2013 to mount an unsuccessful campaign for Supreme Court. I still don’t know what to make of the guy – he’s good on some things and not on others, and while he’s given a standard “the party left me” rationale for switching from R to D, I can’t say I’ve seen any clear evolution in his judicial opinions. Burns is a Democratic challenger to another longtime incumbent, Mike Keasler, who will have to resign his position in four years if he is re-elected because he will hit the mandatory retirement age of 75. He’s the clearest choice of the three.

What can we do to increase the odds of a downballot Democratic victory?

Yesterday, I raised the possibility of downballot Democrats winning statewide races if 1) polling in the Trump/Clinton matchup remained at or below the six point spread in the recent PPP poll and 2) Democrats did a better job voting all the way down the ballot than Republicans, as has been the case in recent Presidential elections. What can Democrats do to increase the odds of this happening?

Let’s start by recognizing what we can’t do. Trump’s gonna Trump, Clinton is going to do what she does, and the numbers will be what they are. If you’re reading this and you know how you’re voting, you’re not part of this equation – you’re already factored in. We also can’t affect what Republicans, whether NeverTrumpers or not, do downballot. It’s my supposition that conditions are favorable for Republicans to see fewer votes in downballot races this year than they might normally expect, but that’s all that it is. Even if I’m right about that, it may not be enough to make a difference. All Democrats can reasonably do is try to position themselves as best they can to take advantage of this if there is something to take advantage of.

So what can we do? The good new is, this isn’t complicated.

1. Vote all the way down the ballot – I presume you already do that, but nothing is too obvious that it need not be stated. Vote all the way down the ballot, and vote for Democrats. I’ve been addressing the Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals in these two posts, and before that I’ve been harping on the lower appeals courts. Don’t forget the district and county courts, too.

2. Spend your money and volunteer energy here in Texas – How much more incentive do you need than the prospect of winning a statewide race for the first time since 1994? Give a few bucks to your local party/coordinated campaign, volunteer to phonebank, you know the drill. Do something to spread the message. It doesn’t matter if there aren’t any local races of interest, either. If there can be a grassroots GOTV effort in Lubbock, there can be one anywhere. Find one and be a part of it.

3. Support the candidates in question – Here are the Democratic candidates running for Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals:

Mike Westergren – Justice, Supreme Court, Place 3
Dori Contreras Garza – Justice, Supreme Court, Place 5
Savannah Robinson – Justice, Supreme Court, Place 9

Lawrence “Larry” Meyers – Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2
Betsy Johnson – Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 5
Robert Burns – Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 6

Meyers is an incumbent, having switched parties prior to the 2014 election; the rest are challengers. You could send them a few bucks to help them get their names out – even a little bit of extra name recognition may translate to a few extra people not skipping their race – or talk about them in your social circle. The name of the game is name recognition.

4. Reach out to left-leaning friends and family who won’t support Hillary Clinton – We all have people like this in our lives. A gentle suggestion that they vote for some downballot Democrats probably can’t hurt.

Like I said, not exactly rocket science. Everything I’ve said here is intuitive, and would have an effect on the margins, since that’s where an effect can be had. I think the key here is just thinking that it really may be possible. Again, I stress the “may be” part – I don’t want to over-promise, but I do want people thinking about this.

Meyers voter ID lawsuit on hold

That’s my interpretation of this.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Larry Meyers and his co-plaintiff yesterday nonsuited their lawsuit against the state that claimed the voter ID law was unconstitutional.

The plantiffs plan to refile their lawsuit after they gather more evidence, said their attorney, Andrew Sommerman. The nonsuit came just one day after they argued their case before Dallas’s Fifth Court of Appeals.

“This was a hearing on a plea to the jurisdiction. We got the impression after arguing in front of the panel, the court of appeals would want to see more evidence about one thing or another,” said Sommerman, a partner in Sommerman & Quesada in Dallas.

The Fifth Court justices on the panel seemed to want more evidence about the number of people who had been denied their vote because of the voter ID law, Sommerman said. He said he feels good about the merits of the lawsuit, but there needs to be more work to regarding the jurisdiction question.

See here for the background. My bit of Google-based research tells me that to “non-suit” means to drop the matter (in this case, at least) without it being concluded or decided. It’s not clear to me why this information is needed, or why the pause in the action has to happen, but since the federal lawsuit has surely covered this ground, I imagine it can be provided in fairly short order. I’ll keep my eyes open for further developments.

Meyers’ voter ID lawsuit gets appellate hearing

I hope he gets to keep it going.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

[Court of Criminal Appeals Justice Lawrence] Meyers filed his state lawsuit in October 2014, while another legal challenge to the state’s voter ID law was pending in federal court in Corpus Christi. A federal judge overturned the law, but it has remained in effect during the state’s appeals to higher courts.

Meanwhile, state and local officials in Texas tried to get Meyers’ challenge dismissed. A Dallas trial judge — former state lawmaker Dale Tillery, a Democrat — refused that request. Now those officials are asking the state’s 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas to toss it. That hearing is set for Tuesday.

Meyers is lapping this up. His challenge is the sort of technical thing you would expect from a long-time judge. He points to this sentence in the Texas Constitution (emphasis added): “In all elections by the people, the vote shall be by ballot, and the Legislature shall provide for the numbering of tickets and make such other regulations as may be necessary to detect and punish fraud and preserve the purity of the ballot box; and the Legislature shall provide by law for the registration of all voters.”

“It does not include ‘prevent,’” he says, adding that the voter ID law is “a prior restraint against your constitutional right to vote.”

As he put it in his original filing, the voter ID law forces voters to prove they are innocent before they cast their ballots rather than requiring the state to prove that someone is actually guilty of voter fraud once they have voted. Someone who doesn’t have the required identification “will be denied his right to vote and will be presumed to be guilty of voter fraud,” he wrote.

Proponents of the voter ID law say it’s no more burdensome than presenting identification in routine commercial transactions, and say the law has built-in workarounds for people who don’t have drivers’ licenses to show voting officials.

Meyers contends that the state’s effort to prevent voter fraud — he doesn’t think such fraud exists in any serious way — creates an obstacle to voting that does more harm than good. Voter fraud is already illegal, he points out, and the state can and should prosecute it whenever it occurs.

“We’re just asking that our Constitution be enforced,” he says. “Voter ID is almost identical to what the old poll tax was. … It suppresses the vote.”

In its legal filings, the state argues that Meyers doesn’t have grounds to sue because he hasn’t shown how he the voter ID law has done him any harm. Those state lawyers also contend that the law does not add to the “qualifications” of voters but is more akin to other requirements, like when the polls are open or when elections are held.

See here and here for the background. Obviously, I agree with Meyers on the merits; the questions about standing are beyond my non-lawyerly capabilities to analyze. Meyers has said that he’ll drop this lawsuit if the federal courts uphold the ruling that Texas’ voter ID law was unconstitutional. We may have some indication by July of that. In the meantime, I’m rooting for the courts to allow this challenge to keep going.

The most interesting statewide primary is for the Court of Criminal Appeals

Too bad no one’s paying attention.

Judge Larry Meyers

Judge Larry Meyers

When the first Republican ever elected to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided in 2013 to switch parties after 20 years on the bench, the move made national news. Now as the only Democratic statewide official in Texas, Judge Larry Meyers is anticipating a losing battle.

“Oh, not real good,” the 68-year-old said this week, mulling his chances of retaining his seat. His smile-lined eyes unfocused for a second, before he laughed heartily, “Who knows? We might have some luck in the fall.”

Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994, but having an “R” after your name is not enough anymore here, where the tea party continues its five-year surge of influence. Even incumbents once considered dyed-in-the-wool conservatives are now routinely accused of being “Republicans in name only.”

Infighting among Texas’ Republicans has been less pronounced in the judicial races here, however, with candidates focusing more on performance than endorsements. Not so in this year’s fight for “place 2” on the state’s highest criminal court. Like every other race in Texas this primary season, it too has derailed into a battle over the candidates’ conservative bona fides, a fight that encompasses everyone from Attorney General Ken Paxton to the candidates’ spouses.

Meyers and the three Republicans vying to unseat him all acknowledge it’s just politics. But what they can’t agree on is whether it should be for this court, which, in the most real sense, decides who lives and who dies, who spends life in prison and who walks free.

[…]

While judicial campaigns are usually more staid, the vitriol has been flying between the Republicans vying to unseat Meyers. Three will face off in the March 1 primary.

Harris County District Court Judge Mary Lou Keel, a former assistant district attorney who has served on the court for 21 years, has little negative to say about her opponent Collin County District Judge Chris Oldner. Oldner, too, acknowledged, “I don’t have anything bad to say about Mary Lou Keel, I really don’t.”

Their target? Oldner’s colleague on the Collin County District Court, Ray Wheless.

The two north Texas judges sit on either side of the Ken Paxton prosecution. Wheless, a long-time friend and donor to the first-term current attorney general, has been critical of the grand jury process that led to Paxton’s indictment last July.

Oldner, meanwhile, presided over that grand jury. While he has said he has nothing against Paxton, Oldner said the attorney general’s supporters have actively worked to try to push him out of public service. He was accused by Paxton’s lawyers of mishandling the grand jury process – an allegation dismissed by the presiding judge – and now finds himself in a race with a colleague he considers part of the dangerous politicization of the bench.

“If you want somebody who just regurgitates tea party lines, well, then, Ray’s your man,” said Oldner, who was appointed to the district court by then-Gov. Rick Perry in 2003. “But if you want somebody that’s actually living the mantra of the rule of law, personal responsibility, then you look at Mary Lou Keel and myself.”

Keel, who said she has had multiple “run-ins” with Wheless on the campaign trail, simply said, “I find him deceptive and inaccurate.”

Wheless said he’s become the target of criticisms for an obvious reason: he’s the man to beat.

“There’s a reason that the conservatives in Texas are endorsing me,” he said, before listing off nods from Texas Right to Life, the Texas Eagle Forum and Liberty Institute’s Kelly Shackelford. “I am the recognized conservative in the race, and that is why Judge Oldner and Judge Keel can’t get any conservatives.”

Read the whole thing, it’s quite well done. It gives the first real insight I’ve seen as to why Justice Meyers changed parties; given that’s he’s filed a lawsuit against the voter ID law, I can believe that was a breaking point for him. I’m glad to have him on our side, and I wish more people would do the same, but I don’t really consider him a poster child for our cause. His rulings on the CCA are all over the map, too often on what I see as the wrong side of the issue in question. It’s not worth worrying about at this point, but it’s something to keep in mind.

As for the GOP side of things, it’s the same old story where the word “conservative” has lost all meaning in the endless tribal war, and qualifications don’t count. I haven’t been around long enough to say with any authority how all of this resembles the state of the Democratic Party in Texas in the 1970s, but I have to believe that there’s a crackup coming. A party can only exclude so many people for so long before they define themselves down to a minority. As far as that goes, what we need is more people like Larry Meyers to say “enough” and bail out. How long that will take, I have no idea. I may not live long enough to see it. But I believe it’s coming. In the meantime, read the story, and root for Raymond Wheless to lose.

Meyers voter ID lawsuit to proceed

An update on that other voter ID lawsuit.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Larry Meyers claims that the state’s voter ID law violates the Texas Constitution, and the court ruled that the case will proceed after rejecting defendants’ arguments that the court lacked jurisdiction.

Meyers—who filed the lawsuit as a private citizen, not as a judge on the state’s top criminal court—and a Dallas-area election worker, Myrtis Evans, sued three defendants over the voter ID law, claiming that the law violated the Texas Constitution because it was a prior restraint on their right to political expression. Among other things, they alleged that the law violated their rights to due process and equal protection, said a third amended petition in Meyers v. Texas, filed in Dallas County’s 134th District Court.

The plaintiffs sued the state of Texas, Secretary of State Carlos Cascos and Dallas County elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole. All of the defendants have denied all of the allegations.

The state and the secretary of state argued that the court did not have jurisdiction and should dismiss the lawsuit. They allege that Meyers and Evans did not have standing to bring their claims, plus they “sued the wrong defendants,” according to the plea to the jurisdiction. They also claimed they had sovereign immunity.

134th District Judge Dale Tillery denied the arguments late last month.

See here for the background. There is of course a federal lawsuit against the voter ID law, and the ruling by the Fifth Circuit that Texas’ law ruled that it violated the Voting Rights Act came out later in the same day that this story appeared. Judge Meyers says he’ll drop his lawsuit if the federal district court ruling is upheld by them and by SCOTUS. I haven’t seen any indication since the appellate ruling that his mind has been changed, so I presume he will continue to pursue this. I’m happy to see all avenues being taken against the voter ID law, and I’m glad the judge in this case agreed with that. One way or the other, we’re still a ways off from a resolution.

Another voter ID lawsuit filed

Well, this is interesting.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

While a federal judge in Corpus Christi mulls whether the state’s requirement to show photo ID to cast a ballot violates the federal Voting Rights Act, a judge on the highest criminal appeals court in Texas is taking another approach: He’s suing the state over its relatively new voter ID law.

Judge Lawrence “Larry” Meyers’ lawsuit, filed in Dallas County, claims the voting law enacted last year violates the Texas Constitution because it attempts to “prevent” voter fraud, something he says the state’s governing charter never intended.

Meyers’ lawsuit states that “the Texas Constitution gives the Texas Legislature power solely to ‘detect and punish’ election fraud when it has already occurred.” In an interview on Wednesday, Meyers said the Constitution says nothing about preventing election fraud.

“It’s legally unconstitutional and it’s an affront to every voter in the state of Texas,” Meyers said.

[…]

One law professor says Meyers’ close read of the Texas Constitution may be a little too tight for any court to accept, particuarly because Meyers does not prove that he was a party injured by the law.

“I think he’s trying to make a point that this law is not really necessary in order to try to prevent voter fraud,” said Charles “Rocky” Rhodes, a professor who teaches at South Texas College of Law in Houston. “But just because the law may not be necessary does not make a state constitutional violation.”

But Meyers says he doesn’t have to prove injury, only standing.

Andrew Sommerman, Meyers’ attorney, says his client and all Texas voters are injured parties because the law dissuades people from voting.

“The statute presumes our guilt before we go to the voting booth,” Sommerman said. “A voting booth is not a place that everyone is guilty of a crime before we vote.”

It’s certainly an interesting premise, but like Prof. Rhoades I am a bit dubious. I’m also not a lawyer, so that’s just my layman’s gut feeling. I think the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit laid out a perfectly solid case against this needless and harmful law, but you never know what can happen once the Fifth Circuit and SCOTUS get involved. We’ll see if anything comes of this.

The enduring mystery of Lawrence Meyers

People are still speculating about why the enigmatic CCA Judge switched parties.

Judge Larry Meyers

Judge Larry Meyers

Lawrence “Larry” Meyers did something last year that no other politician in Texas has done in nearly two decades: He became a statewide Democratic officeholder.

As Democrats gather in Dallas this week for their state convention, Meyers — a Court of Criminal Appeals Judge who left the GOP to run for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court as a Democrat this year — may be a name frequently mentioned.

“It was an unusual move,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, said of Meyers’ party switching.

“He’s either a maverick, reacting based upon his personal assessments and personal beliefs, or he sees a long-term political trend, a change in Texas politics coming.”

[…]

Demographers predict that Texas, now solidly Republican, will shift back to the left at some point.

As that occurs, they foresee that Democrats will slowly begin reclaiming posts they haven’t held in years — since John Sharp was comptroller, Dan Morales was attorney general, Bob Bullock was lieutenant governor, Pete Laney was House Speaker and Ann Richards was governor.

The question is when that will happen.

If Meyers made the right decision, and switched to the Democratic Party as it readies for a revolution, he could ride the wave and be considered a leader in the party.

But his switch alone doesn’t signify that the Democratic revolution is near.

“Democrats are going to have to win statewide before they can say they’ve turned that tide,” [Mike Hailey, editor and publisher of Capitol Inside] said. “They haven’t done that yet.”

We’ve speculated before about Meyers’ motives, but he still hasn’t said anything so your guess and mine continue to be all we’ve got. My guess, for what it’s worth, is that he’s looking for something different. He was planning to challenge Sharon Keller for Presiding Judge of the CCA in the 2012 GOP primary, but apparently decided against it, perhaps because it would have been too contentious or he became convinced he couldn’t win. At least this way he gets to be on the ballot in November, and if he loses he’ll get another shot in 2016. If my guess is right, perhaps he’ll file for a Supreme Court bench again. It’s not crazy to think he might have a better shot winning as a Dem than he did winning a GOP primary against a colleague, even if you don’t think much about his chances as a D. Anyway, that’s my guess. There may be other reasons, in addition to or instead of the ones I’ve suggested, but until he decides to talk about it, that’s the best we can do.

January finance reports for Democratic statewide candidates

BagOfMoney

With the exception of a stray missing report here and there, all of the January campaign finance reports for state office holders and seekers are up on the Texas Ethics Commission webpage. Here’s a brief look at the reports filed by Democratic candidates for statewide offices. I already have reports for the candidates in contested primaries on my 2014 Election page, so this is a chance to look at the uncontested candidates as well.

Governor

Wendy Davis
Wendy Davis SPAC
Wendy Davis GPAC

Ray Madrigal – No report

As you’ve probably read by now, Wendy Davis filed three campaign reports – basically, the first one is her previously existing Senate account, to which people were contributing before her official announcement that she was running for Governor; the second is her special purpose PAC account for her gubernatorial campaign, similar to the “Friends Of” or “Texans For” PACs that Republicans often use; and the joint Battleground Texas PAC that has gotten every Republican’s panties in a wad. I’m not going to rehash any of that, I’m just going to note with amusement that her total must have really freaked them out to have reacted so strongly instead of just pointing to Greg Abbott’s bottom line, which is enough to make Switzerland salivate. Davis certainly answered the question about her ability to raise the funds she’ll need, but once won’t be enough. She’ll need to post similar, if not better, numbers for July. But we’ll worry about that another day.

Lt. Governor

Leticia Van de Putte
Leticia Van de Putte SPAC

As with Wendy Davis, the first account is the pre-existing Senate account, and the second is for the Lite Guv race. Here are the details from each:

Account Raised Spent Cash on hand ========================================== Senate $154,087 $177,799 $235,084 LG SPAC $290,514 $ 21 $251,756 Total $445,601 $177,820 $486,840

I presume all of the expenditures came out of the Senate account, which makes sense. The SPAC was created on November 23, so basically it represents five weeks’ worth of fundraising, which isn’t too shabby. I didn’t go through its contributions, but I did go through the expenses for the Senate account, and I did not see any transfers from the one to the other, so that $290K figure is accurate and as far as I know doesn’t include redundant funds. For five weeks during the Thanksgiving/Christmas period, that’s a decent total, which would project to $1.5 million to $2 million at that pace for the July report. Not bad as I say, but not really enough, either. LVdP doesn’t need to be in Wendy’s league, but she does need to have enough to do some real statewide outreach. If she doesn’t raise at least $5 million for July, I’d be concerned she won’t be able to do that. On the plus side, she can hit up Wendy’s supporters, including and especially the big-dollar ones. I feel confident that she is more than up to this challenge, but if you’ve donated to Wendy and not to Leticia, you need to rectify that.

Attorney General
Comptroller

Sam Houston
Mike Collier

Account Raised Spent Cash on hand ========================================== Houston $184,595 $ 41,216 $153,678 Collier $213,518 $170,791 $439,015

I put these two together, because they’re the only other candidates to report significant fundraising totals. Houston’s report begins in October, whereas Collier had the whole six month period in which to raise money. Both did pretty well, with Collier’s totals being boosted by $400K in loans ($250K from himself, $150K from his company; Houston reported $10K in loans as well). Collier spent $30K on video production, and $50K on “website design and video advertising”; he also spent many thousands on consultant fees, which I didn’t add up. As Van de Putte needs to kick it up by an order of magnitude this period, so do these two. I’d be happy with $2 million raised from each. We know the base is big enough to support Wendy’s campaign, and I’m confident that support will extend to LVdP. Will it reach this far? I hope so.

Ag Commissioner
Land Commissioner
Railroad Commissioner

Kinky Friedman
Hugh Fitzsimons
Jim Hogan

John Cook

Steve Brown
Dale Henry

Account Raised Spent Cash on hand ========================================== Kinky $26,416 $ 4,256 $22,159 Fitz $27,200 $ 6,549 $74,401 Hogan $ 0 $ 3,750 $ 0 Cook $13,153 $17,010 $ 0 Brown $ 4,455 $ 5,661 $ 0 Henry $ 0 $ 0 $ 0

Not a whole lot to say here. Fitzsimons had $50K in loans, and Cook, the former Mayor of El Paso, had a bit more than $19K in loans. I’m not exactly sure why neither Cook nor Brown reported any cash on hand, but it’s not that important. With the exception of Kinky, none of these folks will have much in the way of name recognition in November, but then neither will any of their opponents other than Baby Bush. From this point on, it’s all about the top of the ticket.

Supreme Court
Court of Criminal Appeals

William Moody
Larry Meyers
Gina Benavides

John Granberg

Account Raised Spent Cash on hand ========================================== Moody $ 7,500 $ 9,358 $ 4,037 Meyers $ 1,000 $ 3,750 $ 441 Benavides $ 2,500 $ 3,750 $ 0 Granburg $ 780 $ 5,296 $ 780

Again, not much to say here. I thought Larry Meyers might have a few bucks stashed away just due to his longevity, but apparently not. He does have about $94K in outstanding loans, presumably money he has already spent. In case you’re wondering, that $3,750 figure you see is the filing fee. Again, these races are determined by the top of the ticket more than anything else. Maybe the state party will raise some money to campaign for the slate as a whole.

That’s it for these reports. I’ll look at others as we go along.

What is the sound of one politician switching?

It depends.

Judge Larry Meyers

Judge Larry Meyers

When Lawrence Meyers won a seat on the statewide Court of Criminal Appeals in 1992, he was the first Republican elected to the state’s highest criminal court.

This month he made history again. After switching parties, Meyers, who had been a judge in Fort Worth, became the first Democrat to hold statewide office in Texas in the 21st century. Now he is running for a spot on the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court.

Though Meyers was not elected to his current post as a Democrat, his high-level defection has given the party a shot of momentum and some bragging rights ahead of the 2014 elections, said Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. But Republican officials suggest that the switch was more about their party’s cramped races and not an indicator of any sea change.

Democrats have not had one of their own in statewide elected office since the late 1990s, and nearly every person switching parties in the last two decades has gone in the opposite direction.

“With this and the candidates that we are fielding in this election, I think people are saying, ‘Wow, this is a totally different Texas Democratic Party,’” Hinojosa said.

Meyers, who has flirted with party-switching in the past, did not respond to requests for comment.

Republicans laugh this off, and not without justification. The last R-to-D of any prominence I can think of is former State Rep. Kirk England, who changed sides after the 2007 legislative session. He won re-election as a Dem easily in 2008, then got swept out in the 2010 bloodbath. (He almost certainly would have been a victim of redistricting in 2011 if he had survived 2010; Dallas County lost two districts, and his district number, HD106, is now in Collin County.) It’s nice to have someone with a D after their name in a statewide position, but it’s hard to know what it means just yet. For one thing, as long as Judge Meyers remains mum about his reasons for switching, we don’t know how much of it was motivated by genuine alienation from the Texas GOP, and how much was opportunism. When legislators switch parties, they have multiple colleagues to welcome them and to offer them guidance and a model of legislative behavior. Judge Meyers is the only Dem on his bench. There’s no guarantee his behavior as a judge will change in any way that might reflect the difference in values between his old party and his new one. I don’t need Judge Meyers’ motives to be pure here, but it would be nice to know that there’s more here than a different place for him to send his ballot application.

Final filings: We have a statewide Democrat

Boy, I didn’t see this coming.

Judge Larry Meyers

Judge Larry Meyers

Longtime Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Lawrence “Larry” Meyers announced Monday that he is leaving the Republican Party to run as a Democrat for the Texas Supreme Court.

Meyers, of Fort Worth, filed Monday on the last day of filing to seek Place 6 on the Supreme Court, currently held by Jeff Brown.

“I am thrilled to welcome Judge Meyers to the Texas Democratic Party,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. “I am even more excited to know that Judge Meyers doesn’t stand alone. Every day, I hear from real voters that our party represents the strongest path forward for our state.

“Texas is changing and voters will continue ot reject a Republican Party more focused on ideology than ideas.”

Meyers’ party switch makes him the first statewide Democratic officeholder since 1998.

What’s more, since his term on the CCA isn’t up until 2016, no matter what happens in that race he’ll be on the bench at least until then. It’s a little strange having a criminal court judge running for a civil court, but that’s far from the strangest thing that’s happened this cycle. Meyers announced a challenge to Sharon Keller in the GOP primary in 2012 despite having previously been an ally of hers, but as far as I can tell he didn’t actually go through with it; the SOS page for the 2012 GOP primary shows her as unopposed. In any event, welcome to the party, Judge Meyers. Best of luck in your election.

That was the first surprise of the day but it wasn’t the last and may not have been the biggest, for next came this.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, has filed to run against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the March GOP primary, joining at least eight other hopefuls vying for the senior senator’s seat, according to a spokesman with the Republican Party of Texas.

Stockman, who had filed for re-election in Congressional District 36, had to withdraw from that race to seek Cornyn’s seat.

In an interview with the website WND, Stockman said he was running because he was “extremely disappointed in the way [Cornyn] treated his fellow congressmen and broke the 11th commandment and undermined Ted Cruz’s fight to stop Obamacare.”

There’s crazy, there’s bat$#!+ crazy, and then there’s Steve Stockman, who does a triple lutz barrel roll with a half-gainer but still sticks the landing. Take that, Louie Gohmert!

GOP political consultant Matt Mackowiak said Stockman faces an uphill battle, from recent investigations into his political and fundraising operation to Cornyn’s “huge bankroll.”

“Now we will find out if Sen. Cornyn is truly vulnerable, which I have doubted,” Mackowiak said, adding, “I predict that not one member of the congressional delegation will support Stockman. Ultimately, he will need outside groups to spend, and that is the most important unknown right now.”

All I can say is that so far, no one has gone broke underestimating the insanity of Republican primary voters. I suppose there’s a first time for everything. In the meantime, I join with PDiddie, Texpatriate, Juanita, and BOR in marveling at the spectacle.

Stockman’s change in office means that he won’t be running for CD36, which means there’s at least a chance Congress could be a tiny bit less wacko in 2015. There are three other Republicans running, and one Democrat.

Meanwhile, Michael Cole has had his eye on the heavily-Republican district since 2012, when he ran as a libertarian. He got about 6,000 votes in that election.

Now Cole, a 38 year old teacher from Orange, Texas, is running again as a Democrat. He says he has a campaign team in place, has been crisscrossing the district, and is about to file his first report on fundraising to the Federal Elections Commission. He said he’d focus on getting things done and charged outgoing Stockman with wasting time on politics.

“I can listen to what my constituents want instead of just showboating against Barack Obama,” he said, noting that his major focus would be on middle class job growth.

The change in candidates doesn’t change the fact that this is a 70% GOP district. But still, a Republican and a Libertarian both turning Democrat to run next year? Not a bad day if you ask me.

Anyway. Here’s the TDP list, which will not include people that filed at their county offices, and the Harris County GOP list; I’ve put the HCDP list beneath the fold, since the updated version of it isn’t online just yet. Stace notes the contested primaries of interest in Harris County, but here are a few other highlights:

– In addition to Larry Meyers, the Dems have two other Supreme Court candidates (Bill Moody and Gina Benavides, who is a Justice on the 13th Court of Appeals) and one CCA candidate (John Granberg for Place 3). Not a full slate, but not too bad. According to a TDP press release, Granberg is an attorney from El Paso (as is Moody, who is a District Court judge) and Benavides is from McAllen.

– Kinky Friedman has a second opponent for Ag Commissioner, Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III. Either the Dems got used to the idea of Friedman on the ballot or they failed utterly to find an opponent for him that isn’t some dude. I never thought I’d say this, but as things stand today I’d vote for Kinky.

– Another press release from the TDP makes a nice-sounding claim:

Today, the Texas Democratic Party announced its slate of candidates for 2014. Texas Democrats are fielding more candidates for statewide office in this election cycle than any time since 2002.

In addition to the statewide slate, the party devoted significant time to recruiting for down ballot races, and announced challengers in State Senate districts 10 and 17, and a full slate of candidates to the State Board of Education.

The party spent significant time recruiting Justices of the Peace, County Constables, County Judges, County Commissioners and others in places like Lubbock, Wichita Falls, San Angelo and across Texas.

I like the look of that. I wish they had more information in that release, but it’s an encouraging sign regardless.

– There will not be a rematch in CD33 between Rep. Marc Veasey and Domingo Garcia. As a fan of Rep. Veasey, I’m glad to hear that.

– Rep. Harold Dutton did file for re-election in HD142. Some people just can’t be rushed, I guess. Rep. Carol Alvarado joined Rep. Alma Allen in drawing a primary challenger, as Susan Delgado filed at the last minute in HD145. I’ll be voting for Rep. Alvarado, thanks. Oh, and the GOP did find a challenger for HD144 – Gilbert Pena, who lost in the primary for that district in 2012.

– Dems did not get candidates foe each local judicial race, but there are a few contested judicial primaries. Yes, that’s a little frustrating, but people will run where they want to run.

– No one is running against Commissioner Jack Morman, and no one else is running for County Judge. Alas. Ann Harris Bennett has an opponent for County Clerk, Gayle Mitchell, who filed a finance report in July but has been quiet since.

– Possibly the biggest surprise locally is that outgoing CM Melissa Noriega filed for HCDE At Large Position 7, making that a three way race with Traci Jensen and Lily Leal. I will have more on that later.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to say about many of these races soon. Here’s the Chron story for now, which doesn’t add anything I didn’t already have here. What are your thoughts about the lineups?

(more…)

Can someone beat Sharon Keller this time?

Grits notes that CCA Presiding Judge Sharon Keller has opponents in March and in November – her colleague Larry Meyers for the former, and 2010 Dem CCA candidate Keith Hampton for the latter – and wonders if either of them can defeat Texas’ worst judge.

Judge Meyers probably faces shorter odds than Hampton at unseating Keller, but so far he hasn’t run much of a campaign, that I’ve seen. He’s been on the court forever and in many respects his record as judge isn’t much better than Keller’s. But he’d surely be a less ideological and polarizing a figure, and if he runs a smart, well-funded campaign he stands a puncher’s chance to beat Keller in a primary.

That’s just what it is, though: A puncher’s chance. And as a political-consultant friend of mine likes to say, “you don’t win a fistfight without throwing any punches.” Judge Keller is surely the betting favorite to win reelection next year as I write this. If either of these men wants to beat her, they’re going to need to attack, hard, and put significant resources behind those attacks. Otherwise the race will garner no attention nor interest amidst the 7-dwarves in the GOP presidential primary and a (theoretically) competitive US Senate race for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat on the ballot in March. And in the November election, of course, the presidential race will drive turnout and (if history is any guide) drown out discussions of tertiary races like this one.

Judicial races are generally sleepy affairs, but if one or preferably both of these challengers don’t bring out the attack dogs, Sharon Keller will skate under the radar to reelection and another six-year term, despite all the embarrassment and divisiveness she’s brought to the court.

I’d argue that rather than worry too much about fundraising, because in Texas unless you’re talking eight figures you really don’t have enough to power a statewide campaign, the candidates should try to earn as much media as they can. There’s no lack of material here, it’s just a matter of coming up with something that will get attention. Think unconventionally, take some chances, and if you hear some high-minded concerns being expressed about the nature of your campaign, it means you’re doing it right. Good luck.

Meyers to challenge Keller in GOP primary

There will be a little hot judge on judge action in next March’s Republican primary.

Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Lawrence “Larry” Meyers has told colleagues that he will challenge fellow jurist Sharon Keller in the Republican primary for the court’s presiding judge position.

Keller famously fought and ultimately won a legal battle against the state Commission on Judicial Conduct last year after it issued a “public warning” for her saying, “We close at 5,” when asked about holding the court open for last-minute death row appeal. She has said she felt vindicated when no wrongdoing was assessed.

In a memo Meyers gave to the other eight members of the court on Tuesday, he never mentioned Keller’s legal fight, but instead stated that all federal appellate courts and several state Supreme Courts rotate their chief justice position.

Keller has been presiding judge for the past decade.

“Therefore, I have decided to seek my party’s nomination for this position in next year’s election — I will make a formal announcement to this effect later this week,” he said.

Meyers was elected to another full term in 2010, so this is basically a free shot for him. Win, and he inherits Keller’s position. Lose, and he stays where he is. I presume if he wins there will then be an appointment to fill his seat, with a subsequent election for the unexpired term in 2014. Before you get too excited about the possibility of Keller being taken out this way, Meyers is not the first of her colleagues to give it a try.

Tom Price, currently the court’s third most senior member after Keller and Meyers, unsuccessfully ran against her in the Republican primary in 2000 and 2006.

“I’m used to people on my court running against me,” she said.

All I know is that the Democrats better have a decent candidate lined up to take her on. Another non-campaign from JR Molina isn’t going to cut it. Grits has more.

How about that CCA’s reputation for fairness?

This is just precious.

The longest serving Judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Lawrence “Larry” Meyers, has announced he is seeking re-election in 2010. The Court has been called a national laughingstock by one of its other members because of the actions of Sharon Keller and that was years before Keller made it even more of a laughingstock by closing the court in 2007 and refusing to accept a legal appeal from a person about to be executed.

[…]

Despite the poor reputation of the Court of Criminal Appeals, Meyers said in his press release, “I am seeking re-election to the Court to continue to be an objective voice and ensure that we maintain our reputation for delivering fair and just opinions,” said Meyers in announcing his candidacy for re-election.

Yes, the CCA’s well-known reputation for fairness and justice, which is somewhat like Wall Street’s reputation for transparency and honest accounting. As Michael Landauer suggests, it is to laugh.

Link via Grits, who notes that Justices Michael Keasler and and Cheryl Johnson will also be on the ballot next year. Only Keasler had a Democratic opponent in 2004, and that was JR Molina, so it really doesn’t count. Last year, the Dems left on CCA judge unchallenged, ran Molina against another, and a good candidate in Susan Strawn against the third. Strawn lost by six points 51.64 to 45.53, in the best showing for a Democratic CCA candidate since then-incumbent Charlie Baird lost with 46.03% in 1998. The Dems have been slowly but steadily gaining ground in these statewide judicial races – Supreme Court candidate Sam Houston did even better last year, getting 45.88% and losing by five points – and it’s not unreasonable to think that some good quality CCA candidates next year could score an upset or two. They’ll have Sharon Keller as an issue whether or not the State Commission on Judicial Conduct boots her off the bench. Grits has suggested before that judicial races will be the spearhead of a Democratic renaissance in statewide elections, and while I don’t necessarily agree with that – I think any reasonably well-funded Dem will have a fighter’s chance in the Governor’s race if Rick Perry survives the primary – I certainly do think that these races are vital and must be taken seriously. The last time the Dems ran three non-Molina candidates for the CCA was 1996. That can’t happen again.