Yesterday was Election Day, and while many spotlights were focused upon the Governor's race between Rick Perry and Bill White (and Kathie Glass), some pretty powerful statewide spots were being decided as well. Positions on the two highest state courts - the Texas Supreme Court for civil matters, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for criminal matters - were also on the ballot.
And, once again, Republicans won every race. This keeps both high courts completely Republican - no Democrat, no Libertarian, no Independent, no Green Party - and it's been that way since 1994.
Sixteen Years of a Republican Monopoly in the Two Texas High Courts
Of course, there are those that argue this is not that big of a deal. Judges at the appellate level make decisions based upon law, not party affiliation. They aren't stumping for votes like Congressmen and Congresswomen. They aren't giving speeches and taking voters' questions like Mayors, County Commissioners, School Board Members, or even the Governor himself. Judges, it's argued, are above all that: taking on the label of one party or the other is simply a necessary evil given the reality that these are elected positions.
However, the mere fact that judges must run for office means that they must become politicians at some level. They need the campaign support that a party provides (at least most of them do) and they will have their own campaigns to run albeit smaller and more discrete than their legislative and executive contemporaries.
Does it Matter?
Are they swayed by their party affiliations? Some argue yes. These are the folk that push periodically for judges to be appointed, not elected. Look around, that's not been a very successful venture here in Texas. (Federal judges are appointed here in Texas and elsewhere, by comparison.)
As the appointment debate continues, the reality that Texas faces today is this: a uniform Republican presence on the state's highest courts. Are you comfortable with that?