Local race for civil court judge turns nasty


There are a lot of candidates this primary election and many of them don't grab a lot of attention. But this time, there's a lot of attention being paid to one particular race -- and not in the way everybody expected.

At the courthouse, it looks like business as usual in the 215th civil court. But the campaign for this race has turned nasty.

A radio ad by Democratic candidate Elaine Palmer says, "We interrupt this with breaking news. Harris County records show that Judge Steven Kirkland, candidate for 215th civil district court, was arrested two times for drunk driving."

Judge Steven Kirkland, the Democratic incumbent, says the ad is dirty politics.

"Twenty-eight years ago, I was young and stupid and did some things that I should have not done. I have learned from that and for 28 years I have been sober," he said.

Kirkland points out he's never hid his DWI arrests that occurred three decades ago, and just celebrated 28 years of sobriety.

But Palmer's campaign stands by the ad, saying in a statement: "From the onset, Elaine Palmer has been attacked. From her opponents supporters calling her the N-word to them referring to blacks as 'you people.' We stayed on message and put forth reforms that even Judge Kirkland could not find fault in."

Kirkland says nobody in his campaign have, or would ever say, something so incendiary.

"I think it's just amazing that anyone would want to be a judge and would stoop to these kinds of tactics," Kirkland said.

The tone of this campaign is unusual, but it's also rare to see an opponent like Palmer so well-funded. Records show local lawyer George Fleming as a main contributor to her campaign, and he recently had a case in front of Kirkland.

Our legal analyst Joel Androphy says he's not surprised by what's going on.

"If you don't like the judge in Harris County, you have an option: Go find somebody else and fund them, so this is not new," Androphy said.

Whoever comes out victorious in this primary will face stiff opposition from a Republican candidate in the general election.

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