Judicial candidates raise millions for campaigning

first_img October 15, 2000 Regular News Judicial candidates raise millions for campaigning Judicial candidates raise millions for campaigning center_img Circuit court candidates in Florida have raised almost $7 million as of mid-September and lawyers and candidates have accounted for more than $2.8 million of that total.According to statistics assembled by The Florida Bar, judicial candidates raised a total of $6.8 million through September 17 contribution reports. Of that, $3.5 million had been spent. Much of the money was raised by candidates — frequently incumbents — who were unopposed, and consequently spent little.Additional funds are likely to be raised and spent in the four runoff races that will be decided on the November ballot.The Bar statistics also showed that lawyers contributed $1.6 million to judicial campaigns, including candidates who gave to their own campaigns. Aside from those gifts, candidates loaned themselves just under $1.3 million. Similar information for county court races is not collected in a central location and was not readily available.The information was collected as part of the Bar’s education and advocacy program on the November referendum on extending merit selection and retention to trial judges. The Bar has embarked on a campaign to both educate voters about the issue and to advocate the adoption of the merit process.One of the arguments for switching to the pure merit system is it would lessen the influence of contributions from lawyers to judicial candidates whom they will later appear before in court, and reduce the impact generally of money in selecting judges.Most of the money was raised in 17 contested circuit judgeships (out of 127 total seats up this year), and the statistics showed that success in raising money helps but isn’t a guarantee of winning. In 11 of the races, the candidate raising the most money either won or made the runoff; in six of the races the less well-heeled candidates prevailed. That included one 11th Circuit race where one candidate outspent his three opponents combined more than four times over and failed to make the runoff.Three of the less well financed candidates who won were incumbents, and one incumbent judge who led his race in fundraising lost.The figures also show that big money campaigns are no longer just in the large, urban circuits.The most expensive campaign through the September primary was in the First Circuit, covering Florida’s western Panhandle, where two candidates combined to raise more than $450,000, mostly from their own pockets. Another candidate in that circuit, running unopposed for an open seat, raised almost $73,000, bringing the total for the circuit, which had two seats open, to about $540,000, the third highest total for any circuit.The highest total belonged to the 11th Circuit, which saw candidates raise almost $3 million and spend $1.3 million. Miami-Dade County had four contested circuit races and 18 uncontested races. Nine of the uncontested candidates, including eight incumbents, raised six-figure campaign funds.The second highest spending circuit was the Ninth Circuit, which had four contested races and six uncontested races. The total raised there was $682,000. Much of that came in one race where both candidates raised over $100,000 and from one unchallenged incumbent who raised over $150,000.last_img read more