Can someone beat Sharon Keller this time?

Grits notes that CCA Presiding Judge Sharon Keller has opponents in March and in November – her colleague Larry Meyers for the former, and 2010 Dem CCA candidate Keith Hampton for the latter – and wonders if either of them can defeat Texas’ worst judge.

Judge Meyers probably faces shorter odds than Hampton at unseating Keller, but so far he hasn’t run much of a campaign, that I’ve seen. He’s been on the court forever and in many respects his record as judge isn’t much better than Keller’s. But he’d surely be a less ideological and polarizing a figure, and if he runs a smart, well-funded campaign he stands a puncher’s chance to beat Keller in a primary.

That’s just what it is, though: A puncher’s chance. And as a political-consultant friend of mine likes to say, “you don’t win a fistfight without throwing any punches.” Judge Keller is surely the betting favorite to win reelection next year as I write this. If either of these men wants to beat her, they’re going to need to attack, hard, and put significant resources behind those attacks. Otherwise the race will garner no attention nor interest amidst the 7-dwarves in the GOP presidential primary and a (theoretically) competitive US Senate race for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat on the ballot in March. And in the November election, of course, the presidential race will drive turnout and (if history is any guide) drown out discussions of tertiary races like this one.

Judicial races are generally sleepy affairs, but if one or preferably both of these challengers don’t bring out the attack dogs, Sharon Keller will skate under the radar to reelection and another six-year term, despite all the embarrassment and divisiveness she’s brought to the court.

I’d argue that rather than worry too much about fundraising, because in Texas unless you’re talking eight figures you really don’t have enough to power a statewide campaign, the candidates should try to earn as much media as they can. There’s no lack of material here, it’s just a matter of coming up with something that will get attention. Think unconventionally, take some chances, and if you hear some high-minded concerns being expressed about the nature of your campaign, it means you’re doing it right. Good luck.

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