A group of conservative attorneys declared that they were on a mission from God to unseat four California judges in the election on June 8. "We believe our country is under assault and needs Christian values," said Craig Candelore, a family law attorney who was one of the group's candidates. "Unfortunately, God has called upon us to do this only with the judiciary." The challenge is unheard of, especially in California, which is one of 33 states to directly elect judges. Vowing to be God's ambassadors on the bench, the four San Diego Superior Court candidates won the backing of pastors, gun enthusiasts, and opponents of abortion and same-sex marriage. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's school of law, special interest groups, including those representing opposition to gay marriage, have recently increased donations for judicial races. Adam Skaggs, counsel for the Brennan Center said: "An effective way in driving policy is to try to influence who is on the courts in a state, particularly the highest court, the supreme court." For example, in Iowa's June 8 primary, two Republican gubernatorial candidates announced they favored ousting Supreme Court judges whose unanimous decision last year legalized same-sex marriage.
"Better Courts Now"?
"Better Courts Now," as the movement to oust the four San Diego Superior Court candidates (all Democrats) is called, was the idea of Don Hamer, San Diego County's late Zion Christian Fellowship pastor who campaigned locally for California's ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, and vetted the candidates before he died of a heart attack in March. Following Hamer's death, Pastor Brian Hendry and other supporters oversaw the campaign, which has been focused mainly online.
Lantz Lewis, who has been a judge for 20 years, said his opponent's campaign is taking judicial elections in the wrong direction. "I have no problem with elections, but I think it really should focus on a judge's qualifications, and it's very difficult to think something good could come out of a partisan judicial election," he said.
Opponents also fear that the strategy used in the San Diego, if it spreads, could transform courtroom benches much like some school boards, which have seen an increasing number of social and religious "conservatives" win seats and push for issues such as prayer in classrooms.
Post-election news reported that all four lawyers endorsed by the group lost their bids to be judges in the June 8 election. Craig Candelore, Larry "Jake" Kincaid, Bill Trask and Harold J. Coleman, Jr. got no more than 35 to 40 percent of the votes in each race. Apparently there was no divine intervention for these judicial wannabes or these right-wingers' idea of what constitutes "Better Courts Now."