JP Election Brief: It's here!
- Wednesday, February 29th: Filing deadline in North Carolina
- Thursday, March 1st: Filing deadline in Arkansas
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice race
Two candidates square off in debate
Two out of three candidates for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court participated in a debate this Tuesday. The forum was sponsored by the Christian Coalition and as such, featured a large number of religious-themed questions. Roy Moore was also questioned about his former term as Chief Justice, from which he was removed from the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.
Moore was removed in 2003 for refusing to take down a monument of the Ten Commandments at the state courthouse following an order to do so by U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson. Moore reiterated his position, which he contends people misunderstood at the time: he believes that Thompson's order was illegal, since it forced Moore to violate his oath to the Constitution. 
During the debate, both incumbent Chief Justice Charles Malone and Moore agreed on the effectiveness of prison ministries, since "the only way prisoners could reform was through a higher power.  They also agreed that Governor Robert Bentley's proposed funding cuts in 2013 were untenable. Where the candidates differed was on their view of campaign contributions, since Malone has refused to take money "from special interest groups, plaintiffs' groups or business groups". 
This race is showing a major decrease in early campaign spending, marking a strong difference from previous years in Alabama. In 2006, one race for the state Supreme Court holds the record for "most expensive judicial campaign in U.S. history." This year's Republican primary race for Chief Justice has garnered only $1,140,000 in contributions, a far cry from the campaign in 2006 where a single candidate spent over $2 million on his own. Moore has cited the poor economy as a cause of the low spending, stating, “Part of it is same reason we’re having problems with the court system. There’s not as much money flowing out there and people are more conservative with their money. I think people are holding it.” Candidate Charles Graddick pointed to campaign finance reforms that required frequent reporting and blocked contributions to multiple PACs. Graddick told the press, "I’ve heard people say that that has kept some people from getting involved because they don’t want their name out there." At this time, Graddick has raised the most funds, receiving $540,333 in contributions.
In the News
North Carolina: It's official. North Carolina incumbents and judicial hopefuls have lined up for the 2012 primary elections. Since the filing period opened on Feb. 13, 251 judicial candidates have filed with the State Board of Elections. Of these candidates, 48% (121) are running unopposed.
Some of the more notable races include:
- Appellate Judge Sam Ervin is challenging Justice Paul Martin Newby for his seat on the state Supreme Court. Ervin has served on the Court of Appeals since 2008. Newby was elected to the high court in 2004 and is seeking a second term.
- Judge Martin B. McGee, of District Court 19A, is seeking to unseat Judge Wanda Bryant of the Court of Appeals.
- Appellate Judge Cressie Thigpen is running for re-election. His competition is Chris Dillon, who ran unsuccessfully against Thigpen in 2010.
- 18th District Court Judge Susan E. Bray is running for a position on the Superior Court, but three opponents may stand in her way: Manning A. Connors, Jason B. Crump and Robert Enochs.
- The race for the Superior Court Judge of District 22A has attracted six candidates: Andrea Denis Edwards; Julia Lynn Gullett; Dustin McCrary; Alexander Mendaloff, III; John Brantley Ostwalt, Jr. and Peter A. Smith.
- The race for the Superior Court Judge of District 29A includes: District Judge Tommy Davis, Deborah Burgin and Brian R. Oglesby.
Ohio: Republican presidential candidates are not the only ones preparing for next Tuesday's primary election in Ohio. Below are the appellate court candidates participating in the primary election on March 6, 2012.
- Ohio Supreme Court: Democrats Fanon Rucker and William O'Neill will compete to determine who will face incumbent Republican Robert Cupp in the general election.
- Ohio Second District Court of Appeals: The Second District has jurisdiction in rural counties in mid-western Ohio. There will be two contests for this court. Austin P. Wildman and Jeffrey M. Welbaum will compete as Republicans, while Carley Ingram and Darrell Heckman will face off as Democrats.
- Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals: The Fourth District covers south central Ohio. This district has six candidates competing for the seat of retiring judge Roger Kline. Four of these candidates are Republicans, while two will compete as Democrats. The Republicans are: Leonard F. Holzapfel, Steven C. Newman, Patricia Sanders and Lori Pritchard Hardin. The Democrats are Tom Spetnagel and Marie Hoover.
- Ohio Fifth District Court of Appeals: The Fifth District encompasses central Ohio. A Republican contest between Jeanette Moll and Flite H. Freimann will occur next Tuesday. The winner will compete against Democratic incumbent Patricia Delaney in the general election.
- Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals: The Sixth District covers the northwest border of the state. Two Republican candidates are competing for a vacant seat in the primary. Either Robert G. Christiansen or James D. Jensen will effectively win election if they win on Tuesday, since no challenger has emerged for the general election.
- Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals: This district has jurisdiction over the greater Cleveland area. There are three contests next Tuesday. In one, five Democratic candidates will compete for the seat of retiring judge Colleen Cooney. Those candidates are: Timothy P. Gilligan, Timothy McCormack, Peter Sikora, Erin M. O'Toole, and Lori Anne Dyke. Republicans competing for the same seat are Kenneth R. Spanagel and Elizabeth Harvey. Meanwhile, two Democrats will compete for the seat of retiring Judge James Sweeney. Either Eileen T. Gallagher or Joseph Compoli will effectively win election, since there is no challenger for the general election.
Texas primary tentatively scheduled
Austin, Texas: The date for the Texas primary is still up in the air, though a tentative date of May 29, 2012 has been set. The date for the primary has been pushed back multiple times, caught up in the disagreement over the new districts adopted in Texas. The primary was originally set for Super Tuesday on March 6th, however challenges to the newly drawn districts pushed the primary back to April 3rd. The challenges continued, which made the April 3rd date not possible. The newest redistricting maps, released this Tuesday, have not yet been challenged. If they remain unchallenged the primary will finally take place on May 29th.
HELENA, Montana: U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell ruled in favor of the state last week, upholding the ban on direct corporate contributions to campaigns. Lovell also plans to remove two of Montana's clean-campaign laws due to their attempt to regulate and restrict political criticism. He said that the these aspects of the laws appear vague and unconstitutional. In the meantime, the judge has granted a request blocking the laws' enforcement until he is able to rule fully on the matter. 
Attorney General Steve Bullock was happy with Lovell's ruling. He commented that the ATP's lawsuits are a "concerted effort by out-of-state corporations to dismantle our election laws and undermine the democratic process in Montana." Though content with part of the ruling, Bullock will still fight for the preservation of the state's clean-campaign laws
- "I look forward to showing at trial how Montana's laws governing truthful campaigning are needed and fulfill their purpose. Montanans deserve accuracy -- not distortions -- from their candidates for public office." 
The attorney for the ATP, Jim Brown, said his clients are also pleased with part of the ruling. According to the group, blocking the enforcement of the clean-campaign language is a step in the right direction. Brown is optimistic that Judge Lovell will change his mind in the future when it comes to monetary limits on campaign donations. In a statement, he said, "We believe that Judge Lovell has vindicated free speech and association in Montana. This (ruling) will allow people and corporations in Montana to speak (on campaigns) ... without fear of prosecution in the 2012 election."
Below is the election calendar for the month ahead. Note: As mentioned in this article, the Texas primary has been tentatively scheduled for May 29, 2012.
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- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Press-Register, "Roy Moore's ouster from Supreme Court largely absent in chief justice race," February 27, 2012
- ↑ AL.com, "Alabama Supreme Court candidates find campaign contributions harder to come by" 2/26/2012
- ↑ Your Daily Journal, "Judicial candidates file for election", February 2012
- ↑ North Carolina State Board of Elections: Candidate Filing List, 2012 Primary
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 The New York Times, "New Delay Is Possible for Primary in Texas," February 16, 2012
- ↑ The Denver Post, "Redistricting stalemate may stall Texas primaries," January 31, 2012
- ↑ ABC, "How will late Texas primary affect role in GOP race?," February 29, 2012
- ↑ KYTX 19, "Texas Presidential primary could be May 29," February 29, 2012
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 The Billings Gazette, "Montana judge rules on limiting campaign donations," February 24, 2012