State of the Race

Midtown Republican Club member Judge John W. Campbell does not yet have an opponent for his election.

Bill Dries writes today in The Daily News:

Campbell, Shelby County Criminal Court judge Division 6, is unopposed so far in the three-week old filing period for candidates on the Aug. 7 county general election ballot. No one else has pulled a qualifying petition for Division 6 as of late last week.

“I hope nobody does,” Campbell told supporters at his Germantown campaign opening and fundraiser Thursday, Jan. 23. “But if somebody does I intend to come out and run hard.”

… judicial incumbents are much like other incumbents in local politics. The saying in Shelby County and just about every other local political scene is that there are two ways to run – unopposed or like you are 10 points behind in the polls.

There aren’t likely to be any polls in the judicial races, which are typically understated political affairs. But there could be more competition in this election cycle than past ones, particularly in Circuit Court.

Potential candidates are reacting to the possibility that the Tennessee legislature might abolish two of the nine divisions of the civil court – Divisions 1 and 5 – under terms of the bill sponsored by attorney and Germantown state Sen. Brian Kelsey, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Kelsey’s legislation would take the two divisions off the August ballot, if approved by both chambers and signed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

The two divisions are attractive to non-incumbents for the same reason Kelsey sees an opportunity to abolish them. Division 1 incumbent John McCarroll hasn’t pulled a petition for re-election and Division 5 incumbent Kay Robilio resigned effective this past September.

All 10 incumbent Criminal Court judges, including Campbell, filed their qualifying petitions together on Jan. 17, walking a block from their courtrooms at the Criminal Justice Center to the Shelby County Election Commission’s Downtown offices.

Campbell was appointed Criminal Court judge in November 2012 by Haslam to replace John Fowlkes when Fowlkes became a federal judge. He came to the bench from being Shelby County deputy district attorney general.

“I’ve made a career – my whole life has been at 201 Poplar. … I’ve been there for 32 years,” Campbell told supporters last week in what is his first bid for elected office. “I’m there to let the parties have their day in court – let people put on their case and listen to them impartially.”

Let’s hope Campbell’s race remains unopposed and he continues to serve Memphians.

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