by Max Brantley
The Log Cabin Democratic today follows on our reporting about Court of Appeals candidate Rhonda Wood using recorded telephone messages from Mike Huckabee to support her candidacy against incumbent Judge Jo Hart.
We had previously discussed at some length -- here and here and here -- the vagaries of Arkansas law and judicial ethics codes. Robocalling is illegal, but nobody enforces the statute because they THINK it's unconstitutional. The judicial code says a judge or judicial candidate -- Wood is both -- "shall not publicly identify himself or herself as a candidate of a political organization."
Huckabee's call for the Wood campaign says, among others, "Judge Rhonda Wood has been selected by the Republican Party of Arkansas as their preferred candidate in this race." Wood slices and dices with the mastery of a career politician, if not a judicious legal arbiter, by telling the Cabin that she was not endorsed by a political party but "recommended" by a committee of the party.
What baloney. Voters of Arkansas amended the Constitution in 2000 to change from partisan to non-partisan elections. The Republican Party, particularly, had raised objections to judges running in party elections. Now you have Wood, a Republican contributor -- both to the party and Mike Huckabee's campaign (when she was a judge) -- "recommended" by a GOP committee in a document circulated by the party chairman. Furthermore, she has paid to send an automated phone call all over Arkansas quoting a former Republican governor saying she has "been selected by the Republican Party of Arkansas as their preferred candidate."
Forget law and rules. It's simple. It's a slap in the face to those who believe in non-partisan judicial elections. It is also solid evidence of terrible judgment. She has injected partisan politics squarely into her race, against the constitutional wishes of voters. Not a recommendation for a judicial candidate.