There’s an old saying: “Money can’t buy happiness,” but sometimes it buys victories in political races. If there is one constant in the political races of Francis Jones Pitman, it is that the Jones family war chest has been a major component. How this overwhelming financial advantage plays out in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals race will be revealed Tuesday night.
In her first fray into judicial politics, Judge Francis ran for Caddo Juvenile Judge; she lost in a run-off to Paul Young in 1999. Judge Francis’ campaign spending in that race set a record level at the time for judicial campaign expenses; most of her spending was family money.
Judge Francis ran for the Caddo bench in 2008. She was unopposed, which almost never occurs for a first timer seeking a judicial seat. Potential candidates cited concerns over the financial challenges of running a race against a well-heeled candidate, and decided to stay at home.
Judge Francis announced her intentions quite early to seek the vacated seat on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and her financial power base was a deterrent to more than one potential opponent. Caddo Juvenile Judge David Matlock was encouraged to enter this race by several community leaders, and he dropped his hat into the ring despite being advised that the race would be expensive. This admonition has proven correct.
Judge Francis’ current campaign is running true to form with big buck expenditures for TV, billboards and bus stop benches in every corner of the district, virtually from the get go. Both candidates are qualified for the job, but there is little doubt that if media exposure is the deciding factor Judge Francis will be elected.
An additional advantage for Judge Francis is that her husband Judge Mike is a sitting Caddo criminal court Judge. Many attorneys have been reluctant to get involved in this case because of appearances before Judge Mike. This chilling effect of a two judge family was also a factor in some decisions to not oppose Judge Francis, to contribute to her race and/or to not publicly support Judge Matlock.
Money and political races go hand in hand, and judicial elections are no exception. How a candidate gets across his message is a challenge. Judicial ethics regulations prevent attacks on opponents and direct fund raising by candidates. No matter who wins this election the wheels of justice will continue to roll, and the victor will suddenly leave the sanctity of a one-Judge courtroom to become only one vote of many on the Court of Appeals.