I have a good friend named Reece Rondon in Houston who was appointed late last year as the judge in a state district court by Texas governor Rick Perry. The catch was that he’d have to defend his appointment in an election this year, and he’d have to win a contested primary and the general election to keep his job. Unfortunately, last night he was beaten by his opponent in the Republican primary. That’s a real shame because Reece is a good man and was certainly a good judge. He really enjoyed the being a judge part of the job, and it seemed like he was less into the being a politician part of the job. Anyway, the fact that he was defeated in the primary really has me wondering about about how these sorts of elections work.
Obviously, Reece’s ability to serve as a judge was not the issue in the election. His court is a civil court, and I can’t imagine that more than a small handful of the people who voted will ever have any reason to even think about what kind of a job the judge in that court is doing. So the voters must be basing their votes on some other kind of criteria, and I can’t imagine it boils down to anything more than name recognition. The Houston Chronicle endorsed Reece in the primary, but he said that his opponent outspent him. What does that boil down to? His opponent having more yard signs than he did?
Needless to say, one of the main things I thought about was how I vote in those sorts of races, and honestly, I can’t say that I’m ever an informed voter when it comes to most of the questions on the ballot. That leads me to wonder whether it makes more sense to make state judges appointed just as federal judges are. Voters may recognize a judge’s name if they get busted for driving while intoxicated or make some other career damaging mistake, but if a judge does their job well, then chances are their name will never even appear in the paper. It’s not as though we have debates in these races, and in fact, I don’t believe the newspaper even interviewed the candidates. What’s the point in having an election when that’s the case? Maybe my friend’s opponent will do a great job, and deserves to have won, but I really doubt whether the vast majority of people who voted for her (or Reece) are qualified to assess whether that’s the case.