For Immediate Release
Thursday, March 9, 2006
Dorothee Benz, 212 998–6318
Deborah Goldberg, 212 998–6748
TV Advertising in Texas Judicial Races Gets Off to an Early Start: More Than $270,000 Spent in Primary Elections for Lower Courts
New York, NY Candidates for Texas courts prepared for Tuesdays primary elections with thousands of dollars of television advertising. A study conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law shows that, between January 23 and March 5, 17 judicial candidates in nine separate lower court races have spent a total of $271,471 on television advertising. Three candidates vying for a seat on the Texas County Court at Law # 7 were the biggest spenders, buying airtime worth $66,181 for television ads.
Oddly, some ads contained promises of action typically beyond the scope of what judges can or should do. In one advertisement, El Paso County Court candidate Anthony Cobos said, I pledge to hold the line on new taxes. Cobos opponent, candidate Sergio Coronado, responded with an ad saying, We cannot run our government by reacting when things happen. We must act to make things happen.
Such promises of judicial activism are not common in high court races that we have studied for the past three election cycles, said Deborah Goldberg, Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. The advertising raises concerns because it misleads voters about what judges do. These candidates have missed an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of fair and impartial courts.
Unlike some high court battles we have seen, the advertising has been positive in tone, with most commercials touting the candidates credentials. Also of interest, nine of the 31 ads were aired in Spanish, allowing candidates to reach the diverse voters in Texas. One prospective judge, Sue Kurita, who is running for a seat on the Texas County Court at Law # 6, ran only Spanish language advertisements.
The Brennan Center has been studying television advertising in state Supreme Court elections since 2000. This year the Center will issue periodic reports on such advertising at all court levels. Weekly real-time reports will begin after Labor Day.
For a detailed summary of the advertising in Texas, see www.brennancenter.org. The summarized data was gathered by TNS-Media Intelligence/CMAG, which tracks the nations top 100 broadcast markets and national cable advertising and provides estimates on the cost of each TV spot. For a copy of storyboards or streaming video of the ads, please contact Lauren Jones at