When it comes to voter interest, races for judgeships generally rate at the bottom of the political scale. This is especially true when the ballot is filled with the many races and Constitutional amendments on the November 4 ballot. The Trina Chu – Charles Tutt race for the Caddo judgeship is an exception to the rule – for many reasons.
Initially, it is the classic insider versus outsider race. Tutt is a life long Caddo resident; Chu has been a transplant from the northeast since 2002. Tutt’s campaign is primarily founded on local attorney endorsements; Chu calls that crowd a special interest group that does not know her. Tutt touts his many years of local practice while Chu emphasizes her diverse legal experience.
Although she started her public campaign very late (virtually the week before qualifying), Chu has made up ground against Tutt. A extensive billboard and print campaign introduced her to the southeast Shreveport judicial district and her Chu Chu train logo has attracted the attention of many voters. And the fact that she is an Asian American woman has certainly raised her voter profile.
Chu’s life story is one that certainly appeals to those who cherish the American dream of an immigrant family coming to the United States legally – and through hard work and diligence becoming successful. She escaped from Vietnam in 1982 at age 8; ultimately her entire family was re-united in Boston. Not only did she learn English as a “foreign language” but she obtained an Ivy league undergraduate degree, a law degree and a MBA from Centenary College.
Chu is the first Asian-American to run for political office in northwest Louisiana, and if elected would be the first Asian-American elected judge in Louisiana. Her candidacy is supported in large part by the LSU hospital community; her husband is a surgical oncologist and a professor at the medical school. This group, along with other ethnic nationalities, have been attracted to this campaign which certainly is a positive comment on Shreveport’s growing diversity.
Unfortunately, a religious smear campaign has been started by one of Tutt’s supporters, presumably with his approval. In a February 2013 email sent to a school facility member she questioned the legality of prayer in a school group at her child’s (public) school. Reviewed objectively, the email reflected church-state legal issues that are well grounded in law. Obviously the Chu detractors are attempting to turn the email into a campaign platform issue.
The Judicial Canons limit attacks by candidate on each other; they also require candidates to take reasonable measures to preclude such actions by their supporters. Many have questioned Tutt’s comments at judicial forums, and the prayer email squabble is not surprising to many political observers. Racial bias is not new to Shreveport politics; now religious bias may now become an unwanted (and unneeded) political factor.
Chu is to be commended for not only entering this race, but also running a strong race against an establishment supported candidate. Her effort gives Shreveport’s voters the opportunity to make a very positive statement about diversity, tolerance, and acceptance of all Shreveport residents without regard to ethnic background, religious beliefs, and for that matter sex. Chu’s credentials certainly match if not exceed those of her opponent; the only real question is the judgment of Shreveport voters who hopefully will not tolerate a religious attack on any candidate much less Trina Chu.