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Campaign missteps highlight LA 2nd appellate race

As the level of government-by-judiciary increases, along with judges’ salaries in Louisiana, so has the amount of negativity in these contests, as a battle for a Second Circuit Court of Appeals race demonstrates.

Republican 26th District Judge Jeff Cox challenged incumbent Republican Judge Jay Caraway, a veteran of two decades. Neither ever has run a campaign (or, technically, had a campaign run for them, as legally judicial candidates cannot involve themselves in their own campaigns), always finding themselves unopposed.

In Louisiana, roughly 90 percent of the time judicial races go off without opposition, and of those that do, most of the time those concern open seats. Rarely does a sitting jurist draw an opponent, as the legal community that deals with the incumbent often hesitates at opposing openly a judge who will rule on their cases.

But progressive ambition and the Constitution that mandates no one can assume office after the age of 70 sometimes means expediting matters. Having gained reelection in 2014, Cox still has four years on his present term but now in his early fifties the clock ticks, and he can run only in the second district (including Bossier, Webster, Claiborne, Bienville, Union, Lincoln, Jackson, Caldwell and Winn Parishes) where he resides (there are two others). The election calendar would have given him shots at open seats in 2018 and 2020 but, apparently, those don’t seem to arrive quickly enough.

And perhaps the lack of campaign experience with an opponent shows for both. Each campaign has faced chastisement from the Supreme Court’s Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee, which oversees the campaign conduct for judicial positions. In the past month the panel has said both campaigns have misrepresented material facts in their advertisements.

Each one points to the other candidate’s perceived inadequacies in handling their respective cases, with Cox over the airwaves and in print outdueling Caraway substantially (according to the campaign finance reports prior to the ones now trickling in 10 days prior to the election, his campaign had spent over $400,000 or five times Caraway’s campaign’s). But Caraway’s  campaign (apparently; the site has no information about who is behind it or financing it and is registered under a service that masks actual ownership of the name) has put up a web site with all sorts of presumably negative information about Cox performing his duties and his campaign.

Yet Cox has one ace in the hole – an endorsement by state Republicans no doubt earned by his lifelong status as a Republican, buttressed by additional endorsements by popular and prominent Republicans. Caraway in the past always ran as a Democrat, but switched for this election. Given the antipathy to the Democrat label in the region, these pledges help in contests like this where voters have lower amounts of available information about these than typical.

Thus Cox should be regarded as the favorite, even as Caraway’s incumbent status will pose a formidable barrier to overcome.

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