The May primary won't just set the stage for judicial elections in the fall -- it likely will determine who sits on the bench in Marion Superior Court.This is why Judges Gary Miller and Kenneth Johnson have decided it is just too important not to give voters a choice in the May primary, notwithstanding who party precinct committeepersons thought should be slated for these 16 positions. "My 18-year judicial career got tossed," Miller said. "I'm confident that come the primary, I'll lead the ticket." And he has good reason to feel that way. Recall that in 2006 Republicans nominated Ron Franklin for the 7th District congressional seat. Eric Dickerson ran against the slated candidate and a field of several other candidates and captured more than 50% of the vote, beating Franklin by a 2-1 margin. It's not the same GOP organization John Sweazey successfully ran years ago.
Incumbents and other candidates who filed for the primary by Friday's deadline will take part in the true contest. Changes to state law in 2006 ensured that unless there are third-party candidates, everyone who makes it past the primary to the fall ballot will win.
Marion Superior Court has 16 judgeships up for election this year for six-year terms, and state law mandates that they be divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
That includes a new court that will be added in 2009, giving the Superior Court a total of 36 elected judges -- again, split evenly, with control of the court's executive
committee alternating between the parties every two years.
Murray also discusses the problem GOP candidate, Timothy Oakes. He writes:
One Republican candidate created controversy three years ago when he applied for an appointment from the governor to fill the outgoing juvenile judge's term. Timothy Oakes, now 43, killed a man while driving drunk when he was 17.
He later withdrew his name after protests from the family of the victim, Larry E. Morton. Oakes said Friday that his 2005 meeting with the family included a pledge ever to contact them again. He is qualified to be judge, he said, with broad experience including work in politics and as an attorney, a deputy prosecutor, a pro tem judge and now president and general counsel of the Indiana Cable Telecommunications Association.
"We try to live our life the right way and try to do the right things," Oakes said. "I think I've done so."
The story omits Oakes' well-publicized firing several years back as a deputy prosecutor by former Prosecutor Scott Newman. At least the voters will have the opportunity to decide what really matters when it comes to judicial qualifications. I know of no other place in the country where judges are elected that the winners of a party's primary automatically win a seat on the bench, which means that only those voters who vote in a primary can impact which judges are elected. And even on that point, they can only affect the outcome of the judges running within their own party's primary.