Florida's justices learn to play politics as retention race heats up
The host committee for the campaign fundraiser at the DoubleTree Hotel here in June included former Gov. Reubin Askew, five former Supreme Court justices and some of Florida’s most prominent lawyers and lobbyists.
But unlike most Tallahassee political gatherings, the beneficiaries were not politicians. They were three justices of the Florida Supreme Court: R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince, who each face yes or no votes in next month’s statewide merit retention election.
The justices have now rid their robes to play politics in response to what has become the most politically-charged merit retention election in state history. They are fighting for their judicial lives as they fend off attacks from several conservative groups who want them booted from the high court’s bench.
In Florida, tea party groups and the Republican Party of Florida are targeting justices, with one conservative group even financing television ads.
To combat the attacks, the justices have hired political consultants, created web sites and established political committees to raise money. Their supporters have raised at least $330,000 for each justice — more than most candidates running for the state House.
The once sleepy, non-partisan, merit retention campaigns are now expensive political battles.
“We had to speak out and educate, otherwise the attacks would go unanswered,’’ Quince explained to voters at a forum at Florida State University College of Law on Friday. More here.