Judges targeted by right-wing groups

Conservative organizations are pushing to oust judges who voted against pet GOP causes

Published September 26, 2012 8:55PM (EDT)


Tea Partyers and conservatives have set their sights on (what they might call) "liberal activist judges" who are up for review at the state level.

Certain states have what's called "merit retention," where voters can decide whether to keep or chuck the justices at the end of their terms. In some of those states, right-wing groups have been campaigning against the judges who didn't quite vote their way.

In 2010, anti-gay group Iowans for Freedom poured money into a campaign to get rid of three Iowa Supreme Court justices. Other groups like the National Organization for Marriage were also heavily involved. The reason? Those judges, along with four others, had unanimously voted to strike down the state's ban on gay marriage. They were successful. All three judges lost their seats.

This year, one of the remaining four judges, David Wiggins, has reached the end of his term, and faces opposition from the right.

Bob Vander Plaats, the conservative operative who helped spearhead the campaign in 2010, heads up Iowans for Freedom, which has been running a "No Wiggins" bus campaign across the state. A rival bus campaign has been touring in support of Wiggins -- but Vander Plaats has managed to bring out Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal to boost opposition. "Even if you don’t agree with my views on marriage, think of an unelected judiciary running roughshod over the Constitution,” Santorum said Monday.

A similar battle is brewing in Florida.  The Republican Party of Florida executive committee voted last week to target three state Supreme Court judges, because "all three justices are too extreme not just for Florida, but for America, too." The Koch-backed Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity followed up by announcing a campaign to run ads across the state opposing judges who voted against an effort by the state to block Obama's healthcare law.

From the Tampa Bay Times:

"The first ad will focus on the court's 5-2 decision in 2010, rejecting the proposed constitutional amendment intended by the Legislature to counter President Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act — the one Republicans dubbed ObamaCare."

"Our own Supreme Court denied our right to choose for ourselves. Shouldn't our courts protect our rights to choose?" the ad asks.

And lest judges think they're safe once they're safely through November: In Pennsylvania, a Tea Party group says it will campaign against two state Supreme Court justices up for retention in 2014 if they don't uphold the state's voter ID law in time for it to be implemented before this year's election.

By Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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2012 Elections Americans For Prosperity Bryan Fischer Gay Marriage Health Care Iowa Tea Party Voter Id