Do you know what the 113th District Court does? What about just a Civil District Court in general? Therein lies the problem that hoodwinked voters in 2012, and we sincerely hope does not negatively corrupt them once again in this year’s primary.
In the year 2008, voters elected a Democrat named Steven Kirkland to a Civil District Bench in Harris County. Kirkland is openly gay, but that definitely was not the reason he got elected. Contrary to some of the stories you may have heard, it wasn’t the reason he was defeated for re-election in 2012 either. Instead, the story bears a much sneakier and nefarious orientation. Shortly before the 2012 primary, Judge Kirkland presided over a suit against a prominent attorney accused of overcharging his clients. When all was said and done, the attorney –George Fleming– had been cost $13 Million by the lawsuit.
Fleming ultimately appealed the decision, but that was not enough. He was out for blood. Buying a general election is hard, particularly when so many voters select a straight ticket option in the Presidential year. But buying a primary election, where turnout hovers only in the single digits, is significantly easier. Fleming recruited an attorney by the name of Elaine Palmer, almost exclusively bankrolled her campaign, and let the cards fall where they may.
Palmer engaged in a horribly homophobic campaign that also ran on mostly-slanderous claims about Kirkland’s past. Judge Kirkland, nearly 30 years ago, was an alcoholic with a criminal history of Driving While Intoxicated. Palmer twisted words and dates to make it seem these incidents were recent events. Kirkland, who not-coincidentally has also been sober for close to 30 years, was more than open about an unfortunate part of his life, and fought back hard against those manipulating the narrative. Kirkland lost the election, and was appointed a municipal judge thereafter. In this year’s election, he is running for yet another Civil District Court; and Fleming is underwriting yet another challenger.
Granted, this year’s challenger, Lori Gray, has not directly engaged in any slanderous or homophobic campaign tactics. We will presume the best, and that she is not behind the misleading robocalls regarding the aforementioned DWI once again going around the City. However, this does not excuse the fact that her campaign has been exclusively supported by Fleming. As Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg noted about this fact, “political favors are seldom free.”
Steven Kirkland has four years of experience in office as a noble and well-respected jurist. Voters were foolish and wrong to not nominate him once again in 2012, they would be equally foolish to not do so again in 2014. Accordingly, this board endorses Steven Kirkland in the Democratic primary for the 113th District Court.
The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, Sophia Arena of Houston, George Bailey of Boston and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority opinion of the board.