In Florida, judicial candidates run in nonpartisan races; it at least gives the courts a veneer of independence. Linda Courtney Clark hasn't mastered the concept in her seven years of practicing law.
Consider how Clark handled questions about an e-mail solicitation a supporter sent out on her behalf. Former Republican state Sen. John Grant, a Tampa attorney who should know better, circulated an e-mail asking friends to support Clark's candidacy against Lisa Campbell, another Tampa attorney, for a Hillsborough circuit court judgeship.
The courts need "people of high moral character," Grant wrote. "Linda has a tough campaign and faces someone who take(s) a far more liberal position on the social and moral issues that you and I care about." The retired senator also hit up recipients to donate to her campaign.
Grant said he doesn't know Campbell — "never met her" — but understands "people running" her campaign are Democrats. "I don't want to say guilt by association," he said last week, "but you certainly can know someone by the company they keep." So here you have Grant pleading innocent to a foul even as he commits one. Worse, Clark refused to disavow Grant's tactic. She said Grant's characterization was not political — then declined to say whether she agreed with Grant's assessment on the grounds she could not comment on political speech. Clark attacked the "journalistic integrity" of the St. Petersburg Times for reporting the story. In a letter, she underscored her commitment to the "judicial cannons (sic)," threw Grant's name around again and painted herself as a victim.
Grant can say what he wants. The issue is how a candidate who runs for office under established ethical constraints handles the perversion of those codes on her behalf. Voters typically know little about judicial candidates, and once elected, judges are usually in for good. That makes it all the more important that voters examine the candidates before this race — and others for judge — are decided in the Aug. 26 primary.