I’ve now spent three summers walking around the Courthouses, and I like to think the insight has given me a special perspective on the decline & fall of a political party’s empire. Since the vast majority of partisan officeholders in Texas are actually jurists, it is imperative to note what is affecting the judicial institution’s elections.
Before the 1994 landslide elections –which saw total control of Harris County, among others, shift to the Republican Party– there were a plethora of opportunist Democratic judges who changed partisan label. For the first time in a very long time, we are now seeing the opposite to be true.
Judge Carlos Key, a Republican who is a County Court at Law Judge in Bexar County, today announced his transition into the Democratic Party to run for re-election. The San Antonio Express-News has the full story, including a rebuttal from House Speaker Joe Straus, who conflated the announcement with is opposition to the partisan election of judges.
At a press conference announcing the switch, Judge Key slammed the current Republican Party as being tremendously out-of-touch, as well as proclaiming he could not continue associating with a political party that “demeans Texans based on their sexual orientation, the color of their skin or their economic status.”
Flanked by State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa, Congressman Joaquin Castro and State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, Judge Key announced he would run for re-election in 2014 as a Democrat. It appears that Judge Key will run with the backing of the Democratic establishment.
Judge Key uploaded an entire 3 minute video on the topic that takes multiple direct-shots at the Republicans (specifically Ted Cruz and Elisa Chan). I have embedded the video below.
I tend to think this is less of a big deal for the demise of the Texas Republican Party as it is, much more notably, for the impending demise of the Bexar County Republican Party. The county swung red –just barely– in 2010, and it looks like the GOP will be thrown out with a vengeance in the county next year. Since 2012 was very Democrat-friendly in Bexar County, this could mean that it would go the way of Travis and Dallas: solid blue.
Judge Key might have been the first, but he almost certainly will not be the last.