As our previous two posts indicate, it was a pretty heavy news day for a Saturday today. Here’s a third and final post before we get up and see what’s shaking in the ACC tomorrow. We’ve got a couple of new candidates in the mix. Alvin Sheats (formerly the Commissioner for District 3) is jumping in the open seat race for Tom Chasteen’s District 9 super-seat, and local attorney Stan Durden has announced that he is going to challenge incumbent Superior Court Judge David Sweat.
As far as the District 9 race goes, we don’t really have much to say. Alvin Sheats has represented about a quarter of the district in years past, he’s got community ties across the city, and he’s pretty well liked. That, plus the lack of opposition, pretty much means that, at this point, he’s going through the motions, and barring unforeseen candidates jumping in, he should do pretty well.
But this Judge Sweat thing…now that’s interesting! Well, it’s interesting if you’re in to the obscuria of political campaigns, and we are. The neat thing about this race is that it’s more or less unprecedented. We’ve never really had a sitting judge challenged in ACC, at least not in our recollection, so this is going to bring up a number of interesting issues. You might know, first of all, that rules on judge’s races in Georgia changed right around the time that Judge Sweat first ran in 2002 (right after the election, if memory serves), which loosened the restrictions on what candidates for judgeships could say. (It opened the doors for campaigning on more than just judicial philosophy, and made it ok, legally, for candidates to go negative, more or less.) It will be interesting to see how that affects this race, although we doubt that Judge Sweat or Stan Durden will choose to go negative, at least we hope not.
Another interesting factor, kind of tied into that is what exactly Stan Durden is going to talk about to convince folks that he’s better for the bench than Judge Sweat. We’ve pondered for awhile, and can’t really come up with anything. For what it’s worth, Judge Sweat doesn’t take his politics to the bench, and while he has presided over some of the better-known trials recently (most notably, the UGA Library arson case), those decisions were handed down by a jury, not by Judge Sweat himself. Could a reasonable challenger oppose some the bench rulings that His Honor handed down on motions and whatnot? Probably so. Will the voters care, and can a challenger explain those disagreements in laymen’s terms? Doubtful.
An interesting question that we’ll sure we’ll get answers to in the coming months is: Why is Durden running against Judge Sweat? There’s no question that, if one wanted a judgeship, conventional wisdom says that Sweat is the best one to challenge, since he’s the most recently elected, and on paper at least, the most vulnerable. But, considering our experience with judge’s races is exactly nil, other than observing Sweat’s campaign from afar in 2002, we think that the incumbency advantage is particularly strong for judge’s races. In other words, Stan Durden is going to have to come up with a really good message to convince voters not to vote for David Sweat. It goes without saying that he’s going to have to have enough resources to get that message out to an electorate that is going to be more interested in other races.
Which brings us to another question. Is the local bar association going to get involved? Well, probably not, but it will be interesting to see which local lawyers get behind which candidates.
In any event, this may be as interesting as any local race we’ve got going on this year, so stay tuned.