A local election in Greene County, Missouri, on whether to adopt merit selection of trial judges-the kind of decision that would have occurred in obscurity 10 years ago-has morphed into a national campaign by opponents of the move.
Former U.S. Attorney General (and Missouri Governor) John Ashcroft, who hails from Greene County, appeared in a television ad urging voters to reject Question 1, which would replace competitive elections for judges with a system of nonpartisan appointments and retention elections.
Most of the funding for the opposition group, Greene Countians Against Question 1, is coming from Missourians for Open and Accountable Judicial Selection. The Jefferson City, Mo., group, whose ultimate revenue source is unknown, has invested $135,000 in the campaign, including this $110,000 donation reported to the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office.
Today, a Wall Street Journal editorial mentioned the Greene County election as part of a larger attack on trial lawyers and merit selection.
Funding and organization of the Greene County initiative has been spearheaded at the local level, with support from the bar and business groups such as the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.
A pro-merit television ad features local businessman Jack Stack, while a radio ad features Doug Pitt, president of the local Chamber of Commerce and brother of actor Brad Pitt. More on the pro-merit side is available at http://www.yesforquestion1.org.
The Greene County election also is the subject of an Associated Press article.