Monday, March 12, 2012

Comeback Gals: Race for the 166th District Court

Race: 166th District Court

Primary Outlook: Tossup - Lean Salinas

General Election Outlook: Tossup - Lean Democratic

This will be an open seat in November with the retirement of Judge Martha Tanner (D).  Like with all these judicial races...a little history.

Let's turn the clock back to 1992 and the Democratic Primary.  The Democratic Primary that year featured 3 candidates: Albert McKnight, Michele Petty, and Martha Tanner. Albert McKnight was later a Justice of the Peace and ran into trouble when he was charged with indecent exposure.  He was acquitted on those charges.  (His attorney in that case was the recently deceased Jimmy Parks).  Michele Petty is back again this year running for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court.  Martha Tanner of course went on to win the primary and the 166th District Court.  That's about all the history with this seat.

Who's running?

Running for this seat are two women, two former judges, and two former judges who have an interesting primary history.

Karen Crouch.  Karen Crouch (or as I sometimes refer to her: Glamor Shot Gal) was elected in 1994 to the County Court-at-Law #8 seat.  She held that seat until 2010.  She's now back trying for the 166th District Court, but may fall short for the same reason she lost in 2010.  I'll explain further in a moment.

Laura Salinas.  Like Crouch, Salinas is also a former judge.  Salinas was elected in 2006, winning her primary by 6 votes, after a recount.  She left a lot of Democrats angry with her for challenging a well-liked incumbent, but she managed to repair her image and built some good relations with activists and Democratic groups.

I've mentioned that they're both women and that they're both former judges, but haven't discussed the interesting primary history.

Rumor has it that then-County Court-at-Law Judge Monica Guerrero was recruiting candidates to go after other judges.  The only qualities these recruits seemed to posses was they were female and Hispanic.  Salinas was rumored to be a recruit.  Another rumored recruit is now-County Court-at-Law Judge Liza Rodriguez.  Anyways, in 2006 Salinas beat incumbent Democrat Oscar Kazen.  Many felt a good part of this was because of the dynamic of an Anglo vs. Hispanic.  The danger countywide elected Anglo & African American Democrats face in Bexar County is getting primaried by Hispanic candidates.  In 2006, incumbent Judges Phil Meyer and Oscar Kazen both lost their primaries to Hispanic candidates.  In 2010, incumbent Judges Linda Penn, Karen Crouch, and Michael Mery lost their primaries to Hispanic candidates, and incumbent Judge Phil Kazen nearly lost his primary to a Hispanic candidate.

This isn't to say incumbents shouldn't be primaried or that Hispanic candidates don't deserve to run for office.  My big criticism and question is why are Democrats challenging other Democrats when there are Republicans you could run against?  Shouldn't the goal be to get rid of all the Republican officials first?  What's the point of beating an incumbent only to wind up with a weak nominee in November?

Crouch: Contributions: $8,830; Expenditures: $21,042.40; CoH: $3,730
Salinas: Contributions: $9,705; Expenditures: $7,469.96; CoH: $2,235.04

Crouch: website, Facebook

Overall, we give this race 2 peppers:

It's beginning to sound like a broken record on some of these judicial races, but here are our reasons:

1) Race.  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.  So far neither candidate seems very interested in raising money.

So far neither candidate seems to have raised much money, which seems to suggest they haven't tried to get out in front in this race.  And considering it's an open seat where they won't be running against an incumbent Republican, you'd think they would try to take advantage of the opportunity.  Like so many of the judicial races, this one has been quiet, although the Crouch Campaign has had no shortage of direct mail pieces being mailed out.  Even with the direct mail pieces from the Crouch Campaign, we give the slight edge to Salinas.  Both candidates are women, so they cancel each other out on that advantage, but Salinas is Hispanic and that gives her a slight advantage in the primary.  Another factor working against Crouch is her consultant.  She's already paid $7,800 to one consultant who has had a dubious reputation as of late.  This particular consultant was let go by some previous longtime political clients and is know to work for both Republicans and Democrats, depending on who will pay more.  In addition, said consultant's work has been revealed to be extremely overblown.

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