The Name Game: Running For Broward Judge

 

BY BUDDY NEVINS

 

 

Speaking to a room full of would-be judicial candidates earlier this year, political consultant Michael Ahearn made a surprisingly candid admission:

Candidates for judge win because they have the right name, not because anything that a consultant does.

Ahearn expanded on that statement he made to a lawyers’ group in an interview with Browardbeat.com.

“A campaign is a puzzle,” Ahearn said.  “A consultant puts together part of that puzzle. Consultants help with some of the pieces and other pieces are beyond a consultant’s control.”

Consultants like Ahearn can help organize a campaign. They can tell a candidate what community leaders are important. They can pinpoint what meetings to attend.

Consultants can place ads, sometimes taking a hidden rake-off for themselves. They can be a sounding board and a shoulder to cry on.

All these tasks are important, especially since most judicial candidates are political novices who have never run for office.

But nothing consultants do will sway enough voters to win. That is because few pay attention to judicial campaigns.

Costly advertising mailed to home end up in the garbage unread. Internet, video ads and robo calls are ignored. Judicial candidate forums are attended by few.

 

Michael Ahearn

 

No consultant and no amount of money can guarantee a win in a judicial race.

The track record that some consultants claim are pure heifer dust. No one has ever shown me evidence during my decades of covering politics that the strategy of any consultant produced a victory.

Ahearn is just the only one honest enough to say it. Yes, consultants can help a candidate. They do not hold the keys to the courtroom.

The major problem is that judicial consultants and candidates are trying to reach voters who are in a vacuum. Most voters could care less about candidates for judge until they enter the voting booth and nothing is going to change that.

So candidates for judge campaign in the dark. That will be true more than ever in 2018.

Call it the Trump Effect.

President Donald Trump continues to suck up all the air in the political world.

Few voters pay much attention to politics. What little space in their brains left to politics is being filled by Trump’s wild unpredictable presidency.

It’s Trump 24/7 and no time for anything else. Judicial candidates are even more on their own than ever.

That’s sad because judges touch peoples’ lives like no one else on a local ballot. The fate and fortunes of average Joes and Janes are decided daily by Broward judges.

Roughly two or more dozen Broward lawyers believe they have the wisdom, experience and temperament to be elected judge next year. Some of those lawyers already running, a year before the primary.

Six are campaigning for open Broward Circuit Court seats. Four incumbent Circuit Court judges in other seats have kicked off campaigns, too.

Candidates are running hard, too, although they are mostly shouting in the wilderness.

 

Camille Coolidge Shotwell

 

One of the few groups that pay attention this early to candidates for judge are cops for obvious reasons. They deal with judges on a daily basis.

The Broward County Police Benevolent Association gave family lawyer Camille Coolidge Shotwell a notable early endorsement this month.

She has a police pedigree — her husband, Fort Lauderdale Police hero homicide detective Mark Shotwell, was critically wounded during a gun battle at an Irish pub in 2014. Shotwell fatally shot a gun wielding man threatening a waitress.

So the hero’s wife Coolidge Shotwell, 47, starts with a base of support among cops. Not bad, but her name is more probably important.

Coolidge Shotwell – there are plans to inject a hyphen in the name to read Coolidge Shotwell, thus moving her higher on the alphabetical ballot — is a neutral name. That name and its placement on the Group 39 ballot could sway many, who will vote without a clue other than the name.

The politics of the right name is what prompted one Circuit Court candidate now running to alter his name.

He ran last year for Circuit Court using his complete name – Haccord James Curry Jr. His real first name is unusual and that might be the reason that he came in third in 2016. So now he is running as H. James Curry.

There is nothing new about this. In 2006, then candidate Circuit Judge Marina Garcia-Wood ran as Marina G. Wood for Circuit Court and won.

(Full disclosure: When asked by her at the time, I was one of the ones who told her that historically a neutral name was more electable in judicial races.)

Coolidge Shotwell says she will spend the next year campaigning throughout Broward County, a community that is bigger than several states.

Voters who are diligent will have plenty of opportunity to see and hear her. The others, the vast majority, will decide whether to vote for her based on whether they like the name Coolidge Shotwell.

And maybe that’s another argument for appointed judges.

 



11 Responses to “The Name Game: Running For Broward Judge”

  1. suzanne says:

    It’s nice that some people can be honest about the name game, however, Camille is also very qualified to be a judge over others that simply put in for their “names sake” of winning. Yes the John Q public may not know these people and certainly vote on the name that appeals to their background or ethnicity, but maybe we should be informing the voters to a better degree decision making.

  2. Corey Thompson says:

    Names win over fifty percent of voters.

    FROM BUDDY:

    Exactly my point.

  3. Michael G, Ahearn, Esq says:

    First, I agree Buddy, Ms. Coolidge-Shotwell will be a great candidate and make a tremendous Judge. She is certainly worthy of the early endorsement from the PBA.

    While my honesty on the topic of name placement may draw the ire of some, or many, no doubt its importance is an undeniable fact.

    As with anything, it takes a well rounded organization to achieve success. It may be great to own a Ferrari, if you cant afford to fill the gas tank, it is useless.

    I have been fortunate for almost the last decade to have been highly successful in helping Judges maintain their position and assisting those who won election to be Judge. Many of my successful candidates were not top of the ballot, Judge Duffy (in the primary) Judge Michael Lynch, Judge Claudia Robinson. In his race for reelection,Judge Dale Ross, was not top of the ballot.

    One of the things that I have always noted to perspective candidates is the fact that being a consultant is not my primary source of income. I am fortunate enough to have a successful law practice. This is important because my focus is on winning than just getting paid. I have probably turned down more candidates who had significant campaign funds than any other judicial consultant because I didn’t believe they could not win (and I was right in almost all cases).

    My prior and continued success is heavily dependent on the fact that I see many potential judicial candidates who run in court and around the legal community. Because of this knowledge, I have gained a successful knack for finding talented judicial candidates that the “experts” may not be aware of. It believe my record shows, I have had as much success with many “sure thing” candidates but few if anyone in the last decade can match my success with unknown candidates who were totally underestimated, not top of the ballot and not always the most well funded.

    I do agree, no consultant can win a race. I am fortunate enough to have great partners in the community that have provided great assistance and guidance to my clients. As well, my vendors, sign people, silk screeners, those who do social media and direct mail for my client are second to none.

    In the end, like with most things in life, it is all a crapshoot. A candidate and consultant can do everything they can to put themselves in a position to win, some will and some will not. One thing is certain, there are no guarantees in campaigns.

  4. Wood you? says:

    ….Wood is the name of Marina’s ex husband from ages ago. She is currently married to Judge Carlos Rodriguez. Sad how she is so ashamed to use her maiden name or her husbands last name because of them being Hispanic.

    In the end, Marina clearly prefers he ex husband’s Wood over her husbands name.

  5. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Mr.Ahearn brings up some valid points.zWhat really resonatd was his comment about owning a Ferrari but not being able to afford the gas to run it.I know grifters like that.Tell you anorher winner will be if Comm.Dean Trantalis runs for mayor.Your buddy has to much egg on his face wirh this raiding of the sewer and wster funds.Dean will fix this…Watch….

  6. Speak Truth says:

    #1: Lots of judges don’t rid of their ex-husbands name. County satellite Arlene Simon used her ex’s name and trashed him after she got elected. Now she carries her new husband Paul’s name, Backman…you know, the circuit judge…

    Circuit Judge Stacy Ross hasn’t taken on her husband’s name….you know, the now circuit Judge Ribas.

    County Judge Mardi Levey Cohen ran 3 times with 3 different names. She uses her maiden with the name of her circuit judge husband Dale.

    So, it’s a personal choice & doesn’t make a difference how they are going to be on the bench.

    #2: The Average Joe is uneducated when it comes to the judicial candidates. The few who actually vote either pick who is already there or just check a box. Few, if any do the research. That’s evident.
    But in the end, as we see, some of the dredges of the earth get elected/re-elected, make the news, get transferred out of public eye.

    It is what it is

  7. Don't use that kids excuse says:

    Ages ago is right, like 20 years ago. Marina Garcia Wood Rodriguez. It’s just wierd, use Garcia, use Rodriguez, but Wood. I guess Carlos knows his position.

    At the end of the day, it’s all about the wood.

  8. Name changers 2018 says:

    Besides Curry, I hear other losers of 2016 will be changing their names on the ballot for 2018…

    W. Dale Miller/Walter D. Miller
    Abbe Rifkin/Abbe Logan

    Other possible changes…

    Adam Geller to Steven Joe Geller
    Alfreda Cowart to Alfreda Courage
    Sam Lopez to Sam Lopez-Again
    Brenda DiIoia to Brenda Less-Vowels

  9. Broward Voter says:

    What happened to the story about the anti-Muslim protester

    FROM BUDDY:

    I updated it based on last night’s Broward Republican Party meeting vote to appoint Rosenthal a committeeman.

  10. No to Judy Stern Candidates says:

    I see Shotwell’s Treasurer is Jeffrey Dwyer. Dwyer is law partners with Barbara Stern, Judy’s daughter. No thanks.

  11. Just Saying says:

    A good campaign consultant can win a tough race (not always, but often). A good campaign manager likes the challenge of running an underdog. A cowardly consultant avoids the tough races just to run up easy wins to “prove” to the naive candidates how “effective” they are. Ahearn falls these days into the cowardly category. When male judicial candidates try to hire him now, he tells them that he “will will take women” as clients because men cannot beat women for judge. The sign of a weak and cowardly strategist, or at least one resting on past laurels.

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