Summer Judicial Races Could Run Big Tab

May 13, 2014


The last time Tennessee held judicial retention elections in 2006, not a single dollar was spent on campaigning. This year, the story could be very different.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey has launched a campaign to oust three Tennessee Supreme Court justices through the ballot box in retention elections scheduled for August. All three were appointed by Democratic former Governor Phil Bredesen. Those three justices -- Gary Wade, Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee -- have all said they'd like to keep their seats on the state's highest court. What happens between now and August could result in the most expensive judicial campaign in state history.

The first fundraiser, in support of the justices, has been scheduled for Wednesday in Nashville. Ramsey said he hasn't raised any funds. The Senate's top Republican says instead that his goal is to make the verbal case for voting Wade, Clark and Lee off the bench.

But given the polarized nature of the race, it's possible outside groups could become involved, pumping money into both sides of the race, according to Alicia Bannon of the Brennon Center for Justice.

"What we've found is that once the spending starts it doesn't stop," Bannon told the Associated Press.

The Republican State Leadership Committee, an organization that has gotten involved in judicial races around the country, said it has not yet reached a decision on whether or not to get involved in the Tennessee retention elections. Ramsey is an RSLC member.