Monday, February 20, 2012

Order In the Court: Race for 37th District Court

37th Judicial District

Primary Outlook: Mery edge

General Election Outlook: Tossup - Lean Democratic

Since 1993 the 37th District Court seat has been held by Republican David Berchelmann.  He announced that he is not running for re-election.  Since then, 3 Democrats and 1 Republican have announced for the seat.  This court is a civil bench (versus a criminal bench).

First, a little history.  Berchelmann himself has been a district judge in Bexar County from 1981-1988.  In '88 he was appointed by Gov. Bill Clements (R) to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. He served there for two years and was unable to win election.  In 1992, he won election to his current position of 37th District Court Judge.

Just for fun, the other district judges elected that year were now-Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, the late Andy Mireles, Judge Johnny Gabriel, Judge Martha Tanner, and Judge Mary Roman.  FYI, Roman beat Republican Raymond Angelini that year.

Tax Assessor-Collector Sylvia Romo was elected to the State House.  In addition, Ciro Rodriguez and now-State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte were won re-election to the State House.

Like all district courts in Bexar County, this is a countywide seat and as shown in previous years, very susceptible to wave elections and what's at the top of the ticket.  That's the reason we give this a Lean Democratic rating.  This is the first of 6 contested primary races for various district court seats in Bexar County.

Who's running?

Pamela Gabriel Craig.  Gabriel Craig is an attorney and has previously served as a Municipal Court Judge for San Antonio and as a Magistrate Judge for Bexar County.  In 2010, she ran for the the 437th District Court (a criminal bench) and lost.

She is related to the Gabriel family here in San Antonio; i.e., Judge Johnny Gabriel and Gabriel Wine and Spirits.  She is also one of two Lebanese candidates running in this race (the other being Michael Mery).  FYI, a number of judges and officials here in Bexar County have some Lebanses descent, including Congressman Abraham 'Chick' Kazen, Judge Phil Kazen, Judge Johnny Gabriel, former Judge Michael Mery, and former Judge Oscar Kazen.

Nicole Elizalde Henning.  Henning (like every other candidate for judge) is an attorney.  This is her first run for public office.  The one drawback with Henning is that it seems like she's trying to bank on having a Hispanic or Hispanic sounding name to carry her to victory. 

Michael Mery.  Mery is probably the frontrunner in this race simply based on name id.  He previously served as the Judge of County Court-at-Law #12 from 1999-2011.  He lost re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.  That year also saw two other judges lose to Hispanic opponents in the primary (Linda Penn and Karen Crouch) and one nearly lose (Phil Kazen).  After losing in 2010, Mery was appointed a sitting judge for the State of Texas.

Gabriel Craig: Contributions: $3,800; Expenditures: $3,470.91; CoH: $0
Henning: Contributions: $3,250; Expenditures: $6,650; CoH: $4,850
Mery: Contributions: $19,904; Expenditures: $6,446.64; CoH: $14,277.24

Gabriel Craig: website, Facebook, Twitter
Henning: website, Facebook,
Mery: website

Overall, we give this race 2 peppers:

1) Race.  As previously mentioned about the race for the 4th Court of Appeals, this is a judicial race.  This type of race is on very few radars.  Those most interested are of course attorneys and law firms.  Next are probably those in the business community.  About the third most interested would be the political parties.  After that, most voters aren't going to have these types of races on the their front burner.

2) Money.  Even though these candidates have to run countywide, so far they haven't raised all that much money.

This is a district court race where even though there are 3 candidates in the race, it's still a district court race and the candidates have raised little money.  The interest is narrow which means it isn't going to get much publicity unless one of the candidates makes something happen.

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