TX Supreme Court Nominee Says He “[could] beat somebody with a Mexican name.”
In Tuesday’s primary, Republican voters rejected an eight-year incumbent on the Texas State Supreme Court for an unqualified, far-right candidate who entered the race because, according to him, he “[could] beat somebody with a Mexican name.” The new nominee, former district court judge John Devine, actually uttered that racist remark during a lunch meeting last summer with two well-established Houston lawyers. According to Scott Link, the lawyer who organized the meeting, Devine had faltered because he “couldn’t provide…a philosophical reason” to oppose Justice David Medina - so he abandoned reason altogether.
Republican Political Strategist Corbin Casteel called out Devine and said that there is no room on the state's highest court for "such ignorance."
The lawyers meeting with Devine, disgusted by his comment, released the quote to the conservative website TexasGOPvote.com. Immediately after the comments were published, Devine scrambled to come up with a stronger justification for his campaign. The result - that judges operate “behind closed doors” and that the public ought “to be able to trust what’s going on”- suffered from a heavy measure of irony.
Devine controlled the damage of his remarks by initiating a volley of ethics attacks against Medina, which included an attempt to smear Medina using a 2008 arson case that had never gone to court (the district attorney threw out the charges).
To be fair, Devine had another reason to shift the campaign towards personal issues and away from qualifications.
A poll by the Houston Bar Association found that 59% of lawyers identified Devine “not qualified” for the judgeship. Only 24% applied the same criticism to Medina.
Since the Democrats did not field a candidate for the judgeship, Devine will not face a challenger in the November election. The small minority of Texans who turned out for the primary have entrusted the liberties of the rest of the state to a man whose fellow peers do not think he is qualified. Devine is so confident in his opinions that contrary evidence can hardly unsettle him. Devine will bring a paradoxical set of “values” to the bench: strong enough to warrant enshrinement in precedent but too weak to restrain a racist comment (or induce the slightest shade of compunction afterwards).
In the end, Devine was right. He didn't need to be qualified or have a reason to run. Because sadly, in the Republican Primary, he simply “[could] beat somebody with a Mexican name.”