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Monday, May 03, 2010

Glenn Ellington & Lori Millet: Republicans Running as Dems in NM District Court Primaries?

We've noticed that a couple of District Court candidates who have Republican backgrounds are running as Democrats in June 1 primary races here in New Mexico. I don't know if they are ashamed of their real party affiliation, or if they just want to try to get into office by pretending to be Democratic candidates in strongly Democratic districts. At any rate, it seems odd that the two candidates -- T. Glenn Ellington and Lori Millet -- weren't registered as Democrats until 2008, for starters. And yet they are running against Judge David K. Thomson and Judge Shannon Bacon -- both strong Democrats -- in the primary.

Glenn Ellington vs. Judge David K. Thomson
Take the case of T. Glenn Ellington. Ellington is the former Chair of the Republican Party of Rio Arriba County. He served as NM Taxation and Revenue Secretary for Republican Governor Gary Johnson, a strong conservative. He even served in the past as a District Court Judge in Santa Fe and a Court of Appeals Judge by appointment of none other than Gov. Johnson. Suddenly, however, he switched political parties in 2008. Why? The most likely reason is that he wants to be a more viable candidate for a judicial post in a Democratic district.

Ellington is running in the Democratic primary for District Judge in the 1st District, Division 7, in Northern New Mexico, against the incumbent, Judge David K. Thomson. Ellington notes his previous appointments on his campaign website, but doesn't mention they were made by a Republican governor. Just an error of omission, I'm sure.

When the appointment to the District 1 judgeship was in play in February of this year, to fill a vacancy due to the retirement of Judge Daniel Sanchez, Ellington sought the nomination. Gov. Bill Richardson, however, appointed Judge Thomson.

Judge David K. Thomson was an excellent choice for the job. As the Santa Fe New Mexican reported when he was appointed:

For the past four years, Thomson has been Attorney General Gary King's deputy overseeing the Civil Law Division, the Environmental Division, the Consumer Protection Division and others. He also has served as acting director of the AG's Litigation Division.

He's known as "the tobacco guy" because he has been responsible for enforcement of state laws regulating tobacco sales and distribution.

"And I still maintain my own civil caseload," he said in a telephone interview. One recent case with which he's been involved is the White Peak land exchange. The attorney general this month convinced the state Supreme Court to temporarily halt ongoing a controversial land swap — instigated by the State Land Office — of state trust land for private land around White Peak in northeastern New Mexico.

It should be noted that Ellington also served as lead attorney in the fight against the Santa Fe Living Wage. I'm not kidding.

Union organizers Carol Oppenheimer, of AFM Local 1000, and Morty Simon, of IBEW Local 611, had this to say about the race:

“[W]e support David Thomson for District Judge and oppose Glen Ellington. Glen was the chair of the Rio Arriba County Republican party and then became a Democrat at some point so he could run in this primary.

In addition, Ellington was the lead counsel in the lawsuit brought by the individual businesses and the Chamber of Commerce, Restaurant Association, etc. opposing the Santa Fe living wage. Many people do not know of his very aggressive legal fight against the living wage in Santa Fe. Please help us spread the word.”

Lori Millet vs. Judge Shannon Bacon
Another allegedly Democratic primary candidate for a judicial position, Lori Millet, also has dubious connections to the Democratic Party. Millet is running as a primary challenger to Judge Shannon Bacon, who was recently appointed by Governor Bill Richardson to fill a District Judge vacancy in the 2nd District, Division 23, in Bernalillo County, and is running to keep it.

Judge Bacon has an impeccable background including wide-ranging legal experience and a strong record of service to the community. She also has the endorsements of stellar Democrats like State Senators Eric Griego and Tim Keller, and State Representatives Gail Chasey, Moe Maestas, Al Park and Danice Picraux. Other notable supporters include The Honorable A. Joseph Alarid (Ret.), The Honorable Wendy York (Ret.), Jaime Tamez, Executive Director of Cuidando los Ninos, Paul Bardacke, Esq. and AFSCME.

On the other hand -- like Ellington -- Millet didn't register as a Democrat until September of 2008. It just so happens that her campaign slogan, "compassionate justice," mimics the Republican slogan "compassionate conservatism." You remember George Bush, the compassionate conservative, don't you?

The "compassionate conservative" ploy first emerged in the 1980s, when Republicans were attempting to sugar coat their extremist bent with a phrase that sounds harmless and more like the so-called country club Republicanism that reigned in earlier eras. I think it's telling that Millet is using a variation of this theme, don't you?

What We Can Do
Unfortunately, this could be the beginning of a disturbing trend that has Republicans changing parties to get into judgeships that Democrats would otherwise fill, no doubt helping to advance the cause of civil rights, civil liberties and progressive values. We have to stop it right now by making sure the real Democrats win in these two judicial races.

Ordinary voters often don't pay much attention to down-ballot contests like judicial races. We have to make sure our friends, families and co-workers know who the real Democrats are in these Democratic primaries. To learn more, make a campaign contribution or volunteer, visit the campaign website of Judge David K. Thomson and Judge Shannon Bacon. There's not time to waste. There's less than a month before the June 1 primary.

May 3, 2010 at 12:37 PM in 2010 Judicial Races, Democratic Party, Justice, Republican Party | Permalink

Comments

This is a really great article. Very informative. Thanks!

Posted by: Mark | May 3, 2010 12:57:07 PM

Re: Lori Millet - Being a party-switcher is not necessarily the electoral kiss of death. Bob Schwartz comes to mind. However, I don't want a "compassionate judge," particularly not in the civil division. I want a fair judge, a dispassionate judge, a judge who does not favor any party, but who makes decisions according to the law and in the interest of justice!

Ms. Millet's record as an attorney is quite one-dimensional. According to the attorneys I've talked to, her practice has been primarily in the area of probate, which has its own court. OTOH, Judge Bacon's wide-ranging practice for the last decade or has prepared her for the actual kinds of cases she will hear. That's a clear difference between the candidates, and one I hope voters find out about. If you're talking to voters, I think this is one of the most important points to make.

As far as the political aspect of the race is concerned, I can tell you that Judge Bacon has been a very good Democrat for as long as I have known her (about 5 years.) She has been the lead attorney for election protection efforts in NM, as well as counsel for the DPNM. She has also served as my Ward 18B vice-chair and SCC member with distinction. (She immediately resigned her party offices to run for this judgeship.) Her endorsements are a clear indication of the respect Judge Bacon has gained within Democratic party circles.

Finally, what's up with the flowers on Ms. Millet's campaign signs? is she running for senior class president, or for District Court? Has anybody looked at her signs closely enough to see whether they were printed by a Union printer? They'd have the union bug on them if so. Somehow I think such a nicety would be lost upon her, particularly since her campaign is being run by a PR firm. The union bug is a big deal to afficianados of political advertising. Any Democrat who doesn't use a union printer does not understand the political facts of life..

This year remember Everything's better with Bacon!

Posted by: Proud Democrat | May 3, 2010 1:30:58 PM

Lori Millet made her decision to become a Democrat long before she was approached by the community to run for judge. She did so because she felt that Republicans had lost touch with the needs of many citizens and were too extreme to mesh with her moderate political philosophy.

Lori's practice is far from one-dimensional. She deals with guardianships and conservatorships for the elderly and developmentally disabled, a particularly important area of law given the aging population in this country. She also practices in real estate, business law, tax law, and probate. She is extremely hard-working, honest, and yes, compassionate.

It is sad to have another candidate's supporters try to tie her compassion for the disadvantaged to a failed Republican slogan from years ago. The writer seems desperate to sling mud on an apolitical candidate for judge. Next time you are in court do you want a judge who is a political insider, or would you rather have an apolitical and compassionate judge who truly cares that you are treated well in the courts?

Lori doesn't participate in partisan political events, beacuse she is not interested in running a "political" campaign. She has been asked to run for the judgeship by judges and lawyers in the community who were eager to have a Bernalillo County judge who will do right by all who come before her, regardless of whether they are Democrat, Republican, or Independent.

Please consider dialing down the partisan hostility, and telling the truth about a great candidate for judge, who truly deserves your support.

Posted by: Proud supporter | May 3, 2010 5:13:57 PM

Judge Shannon Bacon's experience and qualifications are head and shoulders above Lori Millet's. Millet may be a fine person but I don't think she comes near Bacon in professional experience and background. I'm not sure it's a good thing that she changed parties. Why not stay in your party and fix it?

I am voting for Judge Bacon and hope if you read this you will too.

Posted by: D Voter | May 4, 2010 7:49:27 AM

If the Shannon comapaign folks who started this discussion had checked they'd know that Lori Millet's signs do have a union bug, and her campaign is not being run by a PR firm. It's easier to distort the truth (or lie) if you remain ignorant.

As to qualifications, Lori's experience is every bit as applicable to the district court as is Bacon's. In fact Shannon is an appellate attorney, while Lori is typically in District Court several days each week. In the legal commmunity, before the election hype started, the reaction was often, "Shannon who?".

Lori Millet has donated hundreds of hours to non-political issues, such as Alzheimer's disease, drunk driving, public education, etc. She did so out of a desire to improve things, not to make political points. On the other hand, look at Shannon's campaign literature, and virtually all her community activity is partisan politics. Is that a good thing for a judge?

Lori changed her party affiliation in May 2008, long before Judge Rivera resigned in February 2010, so there is no link between the two events. Lori has no contact with Republican strategists, nor Democratic strategists. She wishes the election for judges was non-partisan, because the administration of justice should be non-partisan, and party labels diminish the impartiality of the judicial process.

As to slogans, isn't "Compassionate Justice" more appropriate for a judge than "Everthing goes better with Bacon"?

Posted by: proud supporter | May 4, 2010 9:32:52 AM

If so many in the legal community are supporting Millet why doesn't her website list any endorsements? Compare that with Bacon's endorsements: http://www.shannonbacon.com/supporters/supporters.htm .

I don't understand where you get the idea that Bacon has had little community involvement. How about these from her website:

Cuidando los Ninos, Vice-President, 2007 to 2010.

Southwest Women’s Law Center, Board Member and Litigation Chair, 2005 to 2010.

Albuquerque Community Foundation, Board
State Bar Young Lawyers Division, Mentorship Program, 2009 to present.

Posted by: Go Shannon Bacon! | May 4, 2010 10:18:45 AM

As Lori Millet's paralegal, I was one of the first people made aware of her decision to run for District Court judge. Like any successful campaign, hers would need a slogan and "Compassionate Justice" popped into my mind almost immediately. As the person who first thought of the slogan for her, I can assure you it was not driven by some diabolical plan to tacitly align her with the "Compassionate Conservatives" of a past Republican administration. Quite simply, as someone who has worked very closely with Lori for some time now, I think it fits. Lori is not campaigning to be a criminal court judge where compassion could be seen as a liability on the bench. Lori aspires to fill a void of knowledge and experience that is known to exist within the civil court judiciary here in Bernalillo County. That void includes, among other things, expertise in complex probate matters, guardianships and conservatorships, laws impacting the elderly, and a thorough and comprehensive understanding of NM laws that impact all of our most vulnerable citizens. Her sense of compassionate justice is what motivated her to become a leading attorney and a true community servant in all of these underserved areas.

As for the issue of Lori's voter registration, it is clear that Lori became a registered Democrat in 2008, long before Judge Rivera decided to retire and leave a judicial vacancy. Personally, I don't know how much of a difference, if any, her political party alliance will make to the primary-voting public. I guess we'll all find out together on June 1st. In the meantime, I'll take the fact that Lori Millet's opponents find the slogan "Compassionate Justice" a bit threatening as a compliment.

Posted by: Please stand corrected | May 4, 2010 10:50:58 AM

Millet's supporters can say all they want but when someone has been a registered Republican until 2 years ago I don't want to vote for them in a Democratic primary. Why was Millet a Republican through the Bush years? Did she support the Bush/Cheney policies?

Posted by: Questions | May 4, 2010 11:34:05 AM

@ Proud Supporter:

You want people to be "telling the truth" about the candidate you support? Great! Try practicing what you preach.

It's a matter of public record (County Clerk's voter file) that Ms. Millet's party change didn't actually happen until early October of 2008, which means she turned in the filled out registration form in late September, at the earliest . . . not May as you claim.

For whatever reason, if she did actually make the decision in the spring, she waited until AFTER the 2008 primary and AFTER both major party conventions before making the switch.

I don't normally take sides in contested primary races, instead waiting to throw my full support behind the nominee of the party. But I make exceptions where I have serious doubts as to a candidate's motivations or feel that a person's candidacy will somehow injure the party. So this time around my choice is clear. I'm voting for Shannon, and will be turning out at least 100 Democrats in my ward to do the same.

Posted by: Straddling the Fence | May 4, 2010 11:20:38 PM

It's not very important to me when Millet changed parties because it's clear she did it to try to get elected. She knows a Republican has very little chance of winning in the district. Whether or not she had a notion that Judge Rivera would retire she was obviously making plans to jump in on the Democratic side if he or any other judge stepped down.

I don't see any explanation of why Millet suddenly realized she wasn't a Republican any longer. Can anyone fill me in?

Posted by: Vote Democratic in Democratic Primary | May 5, 2010 9:20:59 AM

Rather than relying on the county clerk, you should have gone to the NM Secretary of State's office and looked at the official voter registration record, which is clearly dated May 2008.

As to Lori's reasons for changing parties, they are well stated in a previous posting. She decided the Republican party had veered away from moderation, and like many others in America, felt the Democratic Party more closely reflected her personal beliefs. I'm sorry if you feel that a more recent convert is somehow suspect, but clearly you have partisan reasons for rejecting Lori's sincere statement of her reasons.

If the issue is really who is best for the position of judge, rather than who can pass some artificially constructed litmus test of party loyalty, then Lori is the best choice for judge.

Another thing you might ask about--How did the governor decide to pick Shannon for appointment to the bench? Could it be that a number of her relatives and co-workers donated money to the Richardson fund, and our esteemed governor did what he has done so many times before--rewarded his contributors with a job for one of their family? Why not put your energy into researching the Sutin firm lawyer's contributions, and those of her family members? I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the governor's friends getting rewarded, when other, better qualified people are ignored for appointments that really matter to the voters.

Posted by: Lori Supporter | May 5, 2010 9:46:05 AM

Weak arguments. This is not about party loyalty but about someone who shares the values for equality and justice that have long been the core of the Democratic Party platform. Funny that Millet only discovered in 2008 that the GOP had veered into crazy land. That's been obvious since Reagan and certainly was evident throughout George W. Bush's administration.

Posted by: Vote Democratic in a Democratic Primary | May 5, 2010 10:23:30 AM

@Proud supporter: I did check Lori's signs. They do indeed bear the union bug. Please thank Ms. Millet for supporting working men and women. As far as a PR firm running her campaign, that's what I was told. If you want to refute the contention, then give information rather than a denial. It's a minor point in any case.

However, the process of selecting judges in NM contains a political component - this election. Every judge appointed to the bench must stand for election through the partisan political process. You and Ms. Millet might disagree with it, but you had no vote in the legislature when NM's hybrid system was created. It is what it is, and a lack of political acumen is not an advantage when you're running for office. Deal with it.

This is a Democratic primary election. Party and political philosophy do matter in elections, whether you like it or not. Ms. Millet's recent conversion to the Democratic Party is fair game for speculation, and your tepid explanation of her party switch is far from convincing. In fact, it makes her sound like a naive denizen of the mushy middle, without strong convictions.conceited have

Who would change parties after the Presidential caucus, but before the primary? The only major race being contested in the 2008 Democratic primary was for Congress. So why was it so important to vote in that primary but not for President? It just doesn't make sense for political reasons. Nor does it make sense if her registration change was after the deadline for the primary, in which case she would have voted in the Republican primary after she had decided to become a Democrat.

People don't just decide to run for judge overnight. They aim their careers at it. Yet you make it seem as if Ms. Millet never considered being a judge until two months ago when she was "asked to run" by unnamed judges and lawyers. Sorry, but that really strains credibility! The timing of this particular vacancy is irrelevant. Ms. Millet certainly had some ambition to be a judge before May 2008. Shannon Bacon is a lifelong Democrat who has worked to ensure fair elections. You cannot say that about Ms. Millet, because it's not true.

Your innuendo that Judge Bacon was appointed as some kind of political payoff to her former firm is patently offensive. Your accusations are not supported by any facts, nor is your contention that Ms. Millet is more qualified than Judge Bacon. The Judicial Nominating Commission sent six names of qualified attorneys to the Governor. He chose Judge Bacon, not Lori Millet. Stop whining and get over it! There are plenty of things the Governor has done that I disagree with. By and large his judicial appointments are not one of them.

Finally, you might stop to consider where you are posting your sour grapes and baseless accusations. Democracy for New Mexico is the NM chapter of Democracy for America, founded by Howard Dean. We tend to be pretty liberal here. Ms. Millet obviously is not. Making specious arguments and touting her political "moderation" will win you little support here. Arguing that politics shouldn't matter on a political blog is amazingly naive.

I'd still like the story of the flower on Ms. Millet's signs and campaign materials. I have never seen one on any political literature of any kind before. Is she trying to be more feminine than thou? Is she running for prom queen? Is she especially fond of Chrysanthemums? I have no clue. Do you?

Posted by: Proud Democrat | May 10, 2010 3:21:49 AM

For those keeping score at home, the Shannon Bacon partisans who started this mini-debate were wrong about when Lori Millet regestered as a Democrat; wrong about the union "bug" on her campaign materials; wrong about how she selected her campaign slogan; wrong about her legal experience; wrong about her endorsements (see her webpage www.milletforjudge.com); wrong about the timing of Lori's decision to run for judge; and most importantly, wrong about the friends, co-workers, and family of Shannon Bacon's that donated to Bill Richardson. The motive in being wrong is obvious. Shannon Bacon is running scared, as she should be. Lori Millet will win the election because she is the people's choice, not Bill Richardson's choice.

Posted by: Proud Supporter | May 11, 2010 8:49:59 AM

The governor appoints all kinds of people to positions but the main vetting is done by those in the profession, who vetted and reviewed Judge Bacon's qualifications and ethics. Of course Democrats made campaign donations to Democrats. That's how funds are raised for elections. Nothing negative about that.

The corker is that Lori Millet thought it was fine to be a Republican until she started eyeing a judgeship. Suddenly, after staying a Republican during the horrible Bush years, she decided she didn't agree with the Republican Party anymore. Lori come lately.

Posted by: Vote for Judge Bacon | May 11, 2010 9:06:55 AM

I HAVE A SIGN IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE ON 908 OSAGE AVENUE, SANTA FE. I WANT TO HOLD SIGNS ON ELECTION DAY FOR JUDGE ELLIGNTON PLEASE CALL ME AT 505-920-1116. HE IS A BRILLIANT AND FAIR JUDGE AND THAT'S WHAT WE NEED. I BELIEVE IN HIM AND THINK HE IS THE MOST QUALIFIED.

NIKKI BOONE - 920-1116

Posted by: NIKKI BOONE | May 22, 2010 8:06:43 PM

Why do Republicans always yell in CAPS

Posted by: Edgar | May 22, 2010 8:49:30 PM

Ahahahahaha!

Posted by: Proud Democrat | May 25, 2010 11:09:27 PM