Surname politics and other unsavory games

caines | 3/13/2012, 5:15 a.m.

In Broward County, a place where incumbent judges were never challenged, all of the sitting Hispanic judges up for election were challenged by white attorneys. It was believed that Anglo-Saxon and Jewish surnames would give a challenger a strong chance of winning. Many of the challengers were not nearly as qualified as the incumbent judges. In the first attack, several Hispanic judges were unseated. This emboldened the challengers and they attacked Hispanic and Black judges. A group of bar associations came together and put on panel discussions so the public could compare the highly-qualified minority candidate against the white challenger. The result was that the minority judges kept their seats. In Miami-Dade County, the politics are different because a majority of the population is Hispanic. The political wisdom is that a Hispanic surname will be selected over a Jewish or Anglo-Saxon surname, because most voters do not have any knowledge about judicial candidates and simply pick a surname that is comfortable to them. Jewish voters pick Jewish surnames, white and Black voters pick Anglo-Saxon surnames and Hispanic voters go for Hispanic surnames. In a famous travesty, a well-respected judge was unseated by a darker complexioned challenger because in part the challenger used his grandmothers name to win Hispanic voters. In Miami-Dade County there has been a disgraceful practice of targeting Black judges. The most recent attack is on Judge Teretha Lundy-Thomas. She was specifically challenged because she is a Black female and they are deemed easier targets than Black male judges. This is after a relatively unknown candidate unseated a the highly-qualified Black female judge named Shirlyon McWhorter. Thomas has been on the bench for decades and has risen to rank of administrative judge, which means her peers hold her in high regard. But theres more Miami-Dades political consultant game. Political consultants are ones who allegedly help a judicial candidate run a campaign. The consultants approach judges who are up for election and ask for a fee, usually around $15,000 to help the judge run his campaign, even though the judge may not at that time have any opposition. If the judge pays the consultants, then the consultants are conflicted out of supporting a candidate against the judge. However, if the judge does not pay the consultants, then a consultant may advise a candidate to run against that judge. Thomas apparently did not pay enough of the political consultants the extortion money they demand, so they chose a candidate to run against her. The candidate has the backing of some powerful Cuban politicians, and so now another highly-qualified Black judge faces a tough challenge. If you would like to meet her, shell be at an event on Wednesday, March 7 from 6 to 8 p.m., 814 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Suite 210, in Coral Gables.