Judicial campaigns get big budget backing

HOUSTON Politics may or may not cross your mind when you look inside a courtroom. But courtrooms are certainly crossing the minds of local politicians -- especially Harris County Republicans.

Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill said, "Our joint judicial campaign is among the most aggressive we've ever had. It's at least 10 times bigger than any plan we've implemented in the past."

That campaign is aimed at reelecting every Republican judge in Harris County, and the party is spending up to two million dollars to make that happen.

"We have judges right now who have done a wonderful job," Woodfill said. "They have over 317 years of combined judicial experience."

So why is it exactly that Harris County Republicans are spending so much money to get judges reelected? It probably has a lot to do with Democrats, given that they have candidates opposing those judges in all 27 seats they currently hold.

Amber Moon with the Harris County Democratic Party said, "I think you definitely have an energy behind those candidates that maybe you haven't seen in the past."

The Democrats are not letting any Republican judges run unopposed. Every race has a Democrat facing an incumbent Republican, and the local party has dedicated a website to that effort.

"We have a very one-sided judicial system right now which is making a habit of taking juries out of the process," Moon said. "Judges are making unilateral decisions, and we feel it's very important to bring some fairness and accountability back to the courthouse."

Motivating both sides is what happened in Dallas County just two years ago. The well-funded Democrats upended Republican judges there. It's success Harris County Democrats are hoping to duplicate and Republicans are working to avoid.

Moon said, "We had a lot of judicial candidates last cycle that came within one, two points of beating a Republican and so that definitely raised some eyebrows."

"Immediately after the election in '06 we started rolling up our sleeves and working, because we didn't want Harris County to become the Dallas County of 2008," Woodfill explained.

Either way, for the first time in a very long time, down-ballot judicial races are getting top of the ticket attention in Harris County.

While the Harris County Republican Party says it is dedicating up to two million dollars to judicial races alone, county Democrats won't break out their spending by race. They do say the judicial candidates will get as much attention as other county races.

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