Political Tidbits: Where are all the Judicial Candidates and More


Where are all the lawyers who want to be judges?

The courthouse was deluged in the last election by more than a dozen candidates challenging incumbent judges.

What about next year? Why aren’t more running?

Perhaps because the last time around the challengers lost! That causes even out-of-work lawyers to think twice about spending months of their lives campaigning.

There are two other theories I’ve heard for the inaction:

  • The finances of the legal profession have gotten better.
  • Some consultants advise judicial challengers to delay opening a campaign so as not to tip off the incumbent.

There is no blueprint to winning an election.  Every consultant loses as many as they win. They just won’t volunteer the information.

Judges Ken Gottlieb and Mindy Solomon were running almost a year before the election. Their campaigns were different because they were running for open seats.  Still, they won.

Almost every challenger in 2010 waited until the last minute to open their campaigns.

Again, they lost!



A new book has made me realize how much Florida politics has lost in recent years.




“Reubin O’D Askew and the Golden Age of Florida Politics” by Martin A. Dyckman tells the story of our governor from 1971-78.  It was an era when a bipartisan legislators and a progressive governor created modern Florida.  This is the same modern Florida that the run-amuck GOP-led Florida Legislature is seeking to tear down.

Askew and a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers pioneered transparency in government with the Sunshine Law, the first real land use controls, judicial reform, a fairer tax system, redistricting and appointed the first African Americans to important state jobs and the Supreme Court.

Although he had a Democratic majority, many of those Democrats were led by North Florida lawmakers who resisted attempts to modernize.  To get anything accomplished, Askew and his fellow progressives had to reach across the aisle.

It is this cooperation and ability to compromise that has sadly gone out of fashion.

Sunday’s New York Times quotes a 20-year-old Republican as saying “You can’t reach across the aisle.  You’ve got to stick to your guns.”

That’s recipe for disaster through the dictatorship of the majority.

The dictatorship of the majority is what is happening in the Florida.  The Republican majority have steamrolled through the Legislature regressive failed ideas from the past.  They’ve done this without any consideration of other views.

The 2011 session gutted the Askew-era land use laws, as if developers had a problem building in this state.  They whittled away at the Sunshine Law, which requires your public business to be done in public. They decimated the corporate tax, Askew’s attempt to make the tax system fairer.

The book show there once was a better way to govern.

How did it change?  Dyckman gives some reasons:

  • Term limits made challenges to incumbents less likely and leaves them less accountable.  Potential challengers rather wait out the term limits and run for an open seat.
  • Single member districts made the legislators more parochial.  Multi member districts made the legislator more moderate because they served a broader constituency.
  • Gerrymandering has made it almost impossible to challenge an incumbent in a general election. It creates situations where there are more registered Democrats in the state, but twice as many Republicans in the Legislature.

The art of compromise is gone from the Florida Legislature. We are poorer without it.

This fine book makes me wish I could get in that DeLorean with Michael J. Fox and go Back To The Future.


12 Responses to “Political Tidbits: Where are all the Judicial Candidates and More”

  1. Kevin says:

    Buddy, I would not exactly call the Florida Legislature in the 1970s “bipartisan”…. it was about 80% Democratic. Perhaps a better way to look at it would be “regionally diverse Democratic Party” which ultimately pre-saged the move towards the GOP outside of South Florida.



    Well, the Democrats were certainly regionally diverse, which they aren’t now. That’s their problem every Election Day, isn’t it?

    I meant bi-partisan in its Webster’s definition, which is “marked by or involving cooperation, agreement, and compromise between two major political parties.”

  2. All That Glitters says:

    Also the time the Legislature enacted and the Governor signed the bill that made it illegal for gay people to adopt.

  3. Kevin says:

    Also, I agree with you on Gov. Askew’s importance in developing modern Florida.

  4. Paul Gougelman says:

    It was a different era in the 1970s. Our Legislature was rated as #1 or #2 in the nation, not based on party or partisan politics, but what it did. The Legislature worked with Governor Askew, a former state senator. No fault divorce, home rule for local government, ending partisan elections for judge, a new motor vehicle code, reducing the number of departments in state government from 300 to 25, a new state constitution, right turn on red (we were first in the nation), the public records law, the Sunshine Act, the Landlord-Tenant Act, the waiver of sovereign immunity, the unifrom probate code, a new condominium law that served as a national model, the Baker Act and Myers Act (bringing care to the world of mental health), and many more improvements. As you noted, moderately liberal Democrats worked around old line porkchop Democrats by striking periodic coalitions with moderately conservative Republicans. In Broward, we can be proud of the efforts by Republican State Reps. Bill Caldwell and Joel Gustafson. They were a big part of the effort to reach across the aisle and to strike for real reform. The Republican leader in the Senate, Warren Henderson of Sarasota, was part of this effort too. It was a different era.

  5. Judicial Watch says:

    Which judges are up in 2012?

    There was one challenger who won in 2010 – JUDGE Sandra Perlman. Started her campaign against the late Cheryl Aleman and ended up against Lee Seidman. She too was campaigning for more than a year before her election.

  6. Real Reasons says:

    Hey Buddy, instead of speculating, why not ask some of last cycle’s candidates about whether they are running and if not, why not?

    Attorneys that ran in 2010 ran the gamut of styles, practices, ages, races, ethnicities, and gender. They all had different reasons for running, reasons for the races they picked to run in and when they got in.

    You’ve already got 3 that have filed to run in 2012, and more to come I’m sure.

    Some of them deserve better than the commentary you’ve given in this piece.

  7. Kevin says:

    Also, redistricting under the Democrats in the 1970s and 1980s was nothing more than a white Democratic attempt to hold on to their seats by spreading black Democrats as evenly as possible between majority white districts to make them more likely to elect white Democrats. The TRUE revolution in redistricting was in the 1990s, when the courts finally put an end to this (and of course in the process ultimately killed the Democratic majority in Florida).



    This is surely one way of looking at the Republican redistricting of the 1990s. I would never argue that the GOP’s 1990 plan here, and in other states, resulted in more blacks being elected to state legislatures.

    However, it doesn’t explain why the Republicans hold a better than two-to-one majority in the Legislature, while Democrats hold a majority in voters’ registration.

    There is no one answer. The Democrats have a horrible record of developing candidates for even the Legislature. North Florida Democrats are more conservative and vote Republican, although they never changed their registration. A lot of it is due to gerrymandering, too.

  8. we won't get fooled again says:

    I have another theory about the lack of judicial candidates.
    I think that with all of the attorneys in Broward, there is only a finite group that would run for judge. I don’t think that the group expands much, but I think that it will contract. In the last election we saw a large part of the group run and for the most part get crushed. I don’t think that a whole new group of attorneys are standing by to run next time. I think that with some exception, it’s the same people (there will always be a unforeseen free agent who could jump in).
    Therefore, I think that the “group” is still stinging from the whipp’n they received. While some realized that they don’t have the stones to go through another campaign.
    One good thing to come out of the last campaign is that the public is smart enough to know that if an attorney is receiving unemployment benefits, has tossed veggies at Publix, lives in their mom’s spare bedroom, lives in another county, plays games with their name, has no clients/income or has been called out by the sentinel for running a dirty campaign they are probably not judge material.
    I bet a lot of the “group” is thinking twice about running, with full knowledge that the foregoing issues will resurface and sink them again.
    Let’s pray.

  9. you're all wrong says:

    you’re all wrong. most who ran won’t run again and newcomers won’t run because it was revealed in 2010 that there exists in broward a ‘machine’ that controls this town. that’s the reason not a single challenger, with the exception of pearlman (who ran against seidman who was unprotected because he tried to run against another sitting judge) won. those who choose to run will do so for an open seat or against a judge who is unpopular amongst the power-brokers, including all of the other judges.

  10. Thanks 12:06 am says:

    Sure 12:06…..I mean LG. Machine Machine Machine Machine Machine Machine.

    Even a machine still doesn’t explain 70%-30% does it? A corpse gets 30% in a 2-way race.

    So the machine siphoned away EVERY vote that wouldn’t go to the first name on the ballot?

  11. right on 958 says:

    if 1206 was LG maybe LG forgot many of his own gaffes like submitting an unsigned document that some how had been notarized. Or going to a charity event and making comments that certain upstanding members of the Judiciary and Community were corrupt.

    No worries you are winner in the end. I mean your clients must be happy about the Judge you ran against recusing off all your cases. Especially since the Judge has quickly built a reputation of being a very very good and fair criminal judge.

    Dont get so hopped up over running for an open seat. No one is forgetting anytime soon how you trashed the Judge’s veracity and reputation up and down the County for months.

  12. Broward Lawyer says:

    Your forgot another reason. The court house is gross! Who in the right mind would want to go to work every day in that smelly, old building that floods, has mold, and other cancer causing elements floating around. Not to mention they pay stinks, you are under a microscope everyday and then you run the risk of getting a challenger ever few years. So, why give up a practice for that nonsense? The only people that are going to be judges are those lawyers in their sixties that are about to retire. You can keep that job.