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Election choices fade for Marion Superior Court

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Three unslated contenders for Marion Superior judgeships have withdrawn their names from the May primary ballot, including two sitting judges who between them have almost a half-century of judicial experience.

By the noon deadline on Feb. 25, incumbent Marion Superior Judges Kenneth H. Johnson and Gary L. Miller withdrew their names after filing their candidacies late last week. Both were overlooked at the county Republican Party's slating convention Feb. 16.

Indianapolis attorney Angela Dow Davis, who'd filed to run against the Democrats' slate also chosen Feb. 16, withdrew her name by the deadline. Davis would only say she wasn't slated and decided for personal family reasons not to run.

Each party has eight Superior Court judgeships in the primary, since state law balances the court between the Republicans and Democrats.

Judges Miller and Johnson said they were surprised and disappointed about not being endorsed by their party, but they supported the system and decided it would be best for them personally and the Republican Party not to run.

"In my opinion, the convention produced a number of inequities that ended a 30-year distinguished career," Judge Johnson wrote to Indiana Lawyer, explaining his decision to withdraw. "In light of these events, it is my opinion that a contested primary would not be in the best interest of our party and that we, as Republicans, need to continue to build on the excitement and momentum gained from last November's victories."

The judge spent an "emotional, harrowing, and sleepless" weekend weighing a decision, ultimately deciding that it would be best for his family and political party to not run against the slate, he said, citing his lifelong work of trying to further the goals of his political party.

"If you run against the slate, this all becomes hardball and the gloves really come off," he said. "The personal costs are so much greater."

Judge Johnson has been on the bench since 1979, most recently handling civil cases and multi-district litigation involving mass tort cases on asbestos and silica. Among his accomplishments is Schultz v. Ford Motor, which was the first case in the nation to involve a paperless trial.

Judge Miller, who's been on the bench since 1991, said he also welcomed the additional weekend to make a decision.

"I was not happy about the surprising results on the day of slating, but rather than endure 10 weeks of a bitter and costly campaign, I thought it would be better for everyone this way," he said. "I had support and financial commitments, and so that wouldn't have been an issue. But the whole process would have been unseemly, and that's not what I want."

Judge Miller credited the slated candidates as all being "good, honorable, and qualified" for the job, and said in the end it comes down to them doing a better job at courting precinct committeemen and party leaders.

"Quite clearly, this is something I didn't do as well," he said. "People who might have half the story or ignore it completely have all kinds of reasons that are just silly, from my not wearing a suit to being out of town for a week before the (convention) and missing forums. The fact is, I didn't get slated and now I'm not running. That's it."

The Indianapolis Bar Association's Judicial Excellence Political Action Committee recently released its 2008 Judicial Candidate Qualification survey results. Judge Miller received an approval rating of 85.5 percent and Judge Johnson received an 82.6 percent approval mark. Davis got a 41.2 percent approval rating. The surveys go to members of the IBA and Marion County Bar Association, as well as county prosecutor and public defender offices.

As a result of the judges' decisions to withdraw, all eight slated Republicans will be elected to the bench. Those on the Republican slate are incumbent Judges Cynthia Jane Ayers, Dave Certo, Robyn L. Moberly, Marilyn A. Moores, and Ted Sosin; as well as criminal Commissioner Marc T. Rothenberg, and attorneys Kurt Eisgruber, and Timothy W. Oakes. The Democratic slate lists incumbent Judges Annie Christ-Garcia, David J. Dreyer, Patrick L. McCarty, Tanya Walton Pratt, David Shaheed, and presiding Judge Gerald S. Zore; as well as attorneys Garland E. Graves, and James B. Osborn. On the Democrats' side, Washington Township Small Claims Judge Kimberly J. Brown is the only unslated choice on the ballot.
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