For Conservatives, Split Decision on State Judicial Races

Conservatives fail to oust incumbents in Florida and Iowa, but the GOP is strong in Michigan and North Carolina.
by , | November 7, 2012

For full election coverage and analysis, go to Governing's 2012 Election Center.

It was a good night for those who oppose efforts to oust judges on political grounds.

In Florida, three supreme court justices who had been targeted by Republican and conservative groups for unfavorable rulings -- Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince -- were retained by the voters.

In Iowa, Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins -- targeted by social conservatives for his support of same-sex marriage -- appears to have been retained by the voters as well.

Meanwhile, the GOP fared well in two states with key judicial races.

In Michigan, control of the supreme court was somewhat murky, but the GOP had an edge in keeping its 4-3 majority. Republican Brian Zahra defeated Democratic challenger Shelia Johnson in a contest to serve a partial term. In the combined race to win two full terms, the two top vote-getters in what is so far a close race are University of Michigan law professor Bridget McCormack, a Democrat, and incumbent justice Stephen Markman, a Republican.

And in North Carolina, voters gave incumbent Justice Paul Newby, a Republican, a new eight-year term. He had faced a stiff challenge from appeals court judge Sam Ervin IV, a Democrat. Newby's victory gives the GOP an edge in defending laws passed by the new Republican Legislature first elected in 2010.

Meanwhile, Roy Moore, is once again chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore, a staunch social conservative, had held the office until 2003, when he was ousted amid a controversy over a Ten Commandments monument he installed in the courthouse. It’s a particularly striking comeback since he had failed in two gubernatorial bids before defeating establishment candidates earlier this year in the GOP primary for chief justice.

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