Incumbent Republicans lead in TX court races

November 4, 2008 10:01:27 PM PST
Republican incumbents held off challenges Tuesday from Democrats hoping to end a decade-long GOP stranglehold on Texas' top two statewide courts. Race results: Key Races | State Representatives | State Senate | Harris County | Ft. Bend County | Galveston County | Montgomery County | Brazoria County | All Races

No Democrat has held even one of the nine seats on the Texas Supreme Court or one of the nine on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals since late 1998 when George W. Bush's 69 percent landslide victory in November that year gave him a second term as governor and swept fellow Republicans with him throughout the ballot.

Republican Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson led the GOP's continued grip on the Supreme Court by topping Democratic state District Judge Jim Jordan of Dallas.

"I look forward to continued innovations in the administration of justice throughout Texas," Jefferson said. "My thought on the campaign is that I am gratified that my leadership on the court so far has been ratified by the voters of Texas and I expect to continue that service for the next six years."

Jefferson became the first African-American on the court when Gov. Rick Perry appointed him in 2001. He was elected the following year and became chief justice in 2004.

In another race for a seat on the state's highest civil court, incumbent Dale Wainwright, looking for a second term, claimed victory over Democratic lawyer Sam Houston with 51 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Houston with 85 percent of precincts reported. Besides a name straight out of Texas history, Houston, a partner in a Houston-based law firm, was the only candidate among the major parties to have never previously been a judge. Six years ago, Wainwright became the first African-American to make it to the court through an election without having first been appointed.

"They picked the guy with the catchiest name to run against me," Wainwright said. "It's a tough name. The people of Texas wanted good experience... I'm pleased tonight that integrity and experience, efficiency and hard work won out."

In the third Supreme Court race, Republican Phil Johnson defeated Democrat Linda Yanez, who was bidding to become the first Latina woman on the high court. Yanez was a regional appellate justice from Edinburg who ran unsuccessfully for the Supreme Court in 2002. Johnson is a former appellate chief justice from the Panhandle and a Supreme Court justice for three years.

The court campaigns were a key element in Democrats' bid for a comeback in state politics. The party, urging people to vote a straight ticket, spent nearly $1 million in TV ads around the state for their three Supreme Court candidates.

In the Court of Criminal Appeals races with 85 percent of the precincts tabulated, Houston lawyer and former federal prosecutor Susan Strawn trailed incumbent Republican Tom Price by 6 percentage points. Price is a former criminal court and state district judge in Dallas County who's been on the bench since 1997.

Judge Paul Womack, a former assistant prosecutor in Travis and Williamson counties and looking for a third six-year term on the state's highest criminal appeals court, led by 9 percentage points over Democrat J.R. Molina, a Fort Worth lawyer and former prosecutor making his fourth attempt for a seat on the bench.

GOP incumbent Cathy Cochran, on the court since 2001, did not have a Democratic opponent and easily won re-election over Libertarian William Strange of Dallas. Cochran is a former defense lawyer in Houston who also worked as an assistant district attorney in Harris and Fort Bend counties.

In 1998, Democrat Raul Gonzalez would have remained on the Supreme Court but he retired in mid-term at the end of that year. Bush replaced Gonzalez, who was the last Democrat to hold any of the 29 statewide Texas offices, with Republican Alberto Gonzales, who later would join Bush as White House counsel and eventually attorney general.

On both the Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals, the six-year terms are staggered so one-third of the courts' seats are up for election every two years.

DISCUSS IT: Join in the the election night talk


Load Comments