Helena, Mont.—Women and members of ethnic or racial minorities are underrepresented in a majority of state courts across the nation. A new report from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, titled “Judicial Diversity And Money In Politics,” examines judicial elections in nine states during the 2007-2008 election cycle, to determine if a correlation exists between state-level judicial candidates’ electoral success, their ability to raise money, and their ethnicity, race or gender.
These nine states were chosen because more than half of all money spent nationwide on judicial elections went to candidates in these states.
In these nine states, incumbents were re-elected 94 percent of the time and raised $8 million. Thirty-five percent of the candidates were women. Just 12 percent of the candidates were members of an ethnic or racial minority; nine of them were incumbents.
In Alabama, judicial candidates raised $6 million in 2008.
One male and one female faced off for an open Supreme Court seat. Neither of these candidates were a member of an ethnic minority. In total, these candidates received $4.5 million. Democrat Deborah Bell Paseur was defeated, despite raising $900,000 more than her opponent, Republican Greg Shaw.
Twelve candidates (six women and six men) ran for two open seats on the state’s Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, and two candidates ran for the lone seat on the state’s Court of Civil Appeals. Republicans won all three races; each winner raised more money than the opponents. Two women won the seats on the criminal court, while a man won the civil court seat. The one African American running for these seats was defeated.
In Georgia, judicial candidates raised $1.2 million in 2008. Two incumbents ran unopposed for the two Supreme Court seats–both were men, one African American.
Nine candidates ran for three seats on the Georgia Court of Appeals. Two male incumbents were unopposed and thus retained their seats. A female, Sara Doyle, was the successful candidate for the open seat. She defeated one female and five male candidates. Only one male, Bruce M. Edenfield, raised more money than the winning candidate. None of the Court of Appeals candidates were members of an ethnic minority.
Judicial candidates in Illinois raised $3.3 million in 2008. One Supreme Court justice and eight Appellate Court judges won their retention bids. Two open seats and one contested seat on the Appellate Court were also decided.
John O. Steele, an African American male, and Sharon Johnson Coleman, an African American female, won two of the contested Illinois Appellate Court seats. They were also the candidates who raised the most money in their respective races.
James M. Wexstten was the only incumbent justice in Illinois who faced a challenger. He defeated his female opponent despite being outraised by nearly $175,000. Neither candidate was a member of an ethnic minority.
Judicial candidates in North Carolina raised $2.8 million (a combination of contributions and public subsidy) in 2008. Incumbent justice Robert H. Edmunds Jr. withstood a strong challenge from female candidate Suzanne Reynolds, despite the fact that Reynolds raised slightly more contributions. Both candidates participated in the state’s public fund campaign. Neither were members of an ethnic minority.
Fourteen appellate court candidates ran for six seats in North Carolina. Two of these seats were won by females. One of the winning females, Cheri Beasley, is an African American, who won despite being outraised by her male opponent. One African American male, incumbent James Wynn, held his seat—he raised nearly 32 times more than his challenger. Two females who ran for seats were unsuccessful.
Judicial candidates in Ohio raised $4.2 million in 2008.
Four candidates ran for two Supreme Court seats. The incumbent justices, both female Republicans, easily retained their seats. They raised significantly more money than their male Democratic challengers.
Thirty-six candidates ran for the 10 seats on the Ohio Court of Appeals. Ten of these candidates were female; five won and five lost. Both African American candidates (one male and one female) won their races.
Judicial candidates in Pennsylvania raised $13.5 million in 2008. Seven candidates ran for two open seats on the state Supreme Court. Winner Seamus McCaffery raised the most money in this race. Debra Todd was also elected despite being outraised by two male Republican candidates, one of whom was a female. Two African American males were defeated; they also raised the least amount of campaign cash.
Ten candidates—six men and four women—ran for three open Superior Court seats in Pennsylvania. All three seats were ultimately won by female candidates, two of whom raised the most money. The third female elected, Cheryl Lynn Allen, is African American and was significantly outraised by several other candidates. Most of the losing candidates were male and not members of ethnic minorities. However, one female and one African American male were also defeated.
Judicial candidates in Washington raised $634,161. All three incumbent Supreme Court justices retained their seats. They collectively raised 91 percent of the $417,033 that was raised by all Supreme Court candidates. None of the Supreme Court candidates were members of ethnic minorities. Two of the winning candidates were female.
Seven of the nine candidates running for seats on the Washington Court of Appeals were incumbents. Four of them raised no money, and one candidate did raise money, despite facing no opposition. In the remaining races, incumbents significantly outraised their opponents.
Neither of the winning candidates are members of an ethnic minority, and one is a female.
Judicial candidates in Wisconsin raised $4,518,056. Three candidates sought one open seat on the Supreme Court, and an incumbent justice was ousted by a challenger. Two females and one male faced off in the race for the open seat. Annette M. Ziegler, who raised the most money, was successful. Incumbent Louis B. Butler, Jr. was defeated by Mike Gableman. Butler is the only African American who sought a Supreme Court seat; he outraised Gableman by more than $300,000.
In Wisconsin, Court of Appeals Judge Lisa S. Neubaurer was the only incumbent to face a challenger in the 2007-2008 election cycle. She outraised her male opponent by more than $150,000, and was re-elected.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics collects and analyzes campaign contribution information on state-level candidates, political party committees, and ballot committees. Its free, searchable database of contributions, as well as the full text of the report is available online at FollowTheMoney.org.