Bossier Webster Judge Jeff Cox has always been a pace setter when he was in private practice and after he donned a black robe, so its no surprise that he has been openly campaigning for a seat on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals since last fall; the election is November 8 of this year. What is somewhat of a surprise is that Cox is not running for an open seat; he is challenging Judge Jay Caraway who was first elected to the Second Circuit in 1996. (Caraway was unopposed for re-election in 2006.)
Actually there is a local precedent that Cox is attempting to duplicate,—that being former Caddo Judge Scott Crichton who launched an aggressive campaign last year for the Louisiana Supreme Court seat held by then Justice Jeff Victory. Ultimately Victory decided to retire and not seek re-election; most observers believe Crichton would have been successful in a contested election. Crichton’s Supreme Court push in 2015, which actually started in 2014, certainly provides a road map for Cox.
Cox formed an election committee last fall and funded it with substantial personal funds. He then hit the road attending events in the 9 parish judicial district: Claiborne, Bienville, Union, Lincoln, Jackson, Caldwell and Winn parishes in addition to Bossier and Webster parishes which comprise his current judicial district. Last month he sent out over 37,000 Christmas cards with holiday greetings to voters in the judicial district and he posted 9 billboards with the same festive message. Cox has also been a frequent attendee at public gatherings throughout the 9 parish judicial district in recent months and he has joined the “rubber chicken” circuit speaking to various civic groups and organizations—with a special emphasis on the outlying parishes.
Caraway was in private practice for 15 years before his election to a judgeship. He was an adjunct professor at LSU Law Center last fall and he has served on numerous judicial committees and posts. He teaches senior high Sunday school at Asbury United Methodist Church in Bossier City and is the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Louisiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is a the past president of the Bossier City Lions Club. Caraway also has an MBA degree from Louisiana Tech in addition to his law degree.
Cox also was in private practice for 12 years and he has both an MBA and a Masters in Law along with his law degree. He has served on numerous boards and committees with the bar association and has served in leadership positions with the Volunteers for Youth Justice, the Norwella Council of Boy Scouts and the Caddo and Bossier Councils on Aging among others. He is a frequent writer for local publications including a monthly column for over 14 years in The Best of Times Magazine. Cox is Deacon at First Baptist Church of Bossier City.
Cox has always maintained a high public profile since his days in private practice which included service for 2 years as an Assistant District Attorney in Bossier Parish, – – much more so than Caraway. Cox has certainly pumped up his public profile since last fall and he can be expected to continually ramp up his campaign efforts. Although Caraway may have a perceived advantage in this race since he is seeking to be reelected to this current seat, Cox is probably much better known to the average voter than Caraway, especially in the outlying parishes. Numbers wise, Bossier Parish voters could decide the election with a good turnout, although Cox is a pursing a “leave no stone unturned” approach in all nine parishes. Both Cox and Caraway are Republicans.
Generally speaking judicial races do not draw much public interest and the Judicial Canon of Ethics limit the scope of these races. In effect candidates can not attack each other or for that matter even draw distinctions between themselves. In this election Caraway will no doubt emphasize his 20 years of service on the Second Circuit and Cox will trump his18 years on the district bench. To the lay person, there will probably be no real distinction on this basis; both candidates have substantial civic involvement that will be showcased although how much weight it will carry with the ordinary voter is a toss up at best.
Judicial races often turn on attorney endorsements—the theory being that attorneys will cough up the money to contribute to a campaign in an effort to help move an undesired judge off the bench or to curry favor with a sitting judges hearing cases. This approach can have good and bad consequences with voters depending on which attorneys are liked or disliked while others sometimes vote on an anti-attorney bias. A candidate’s name familiarity is always a critical factor and Cox seemingly has a head start in this category at this time; it’s a long time until November and much more publicity and pr efforts can be expected from both Caraway and Cox.