Local News

State Lawmakers May Be Asked To Bail Out Judicial Campaign Fund

Posted April 28, 2004 5:49 a.m. EDT

— Critics say the fund to help public financing is falling well short of expectations, and state lawmakers may be asked to bail it out.

The success of public financing for judicial campaigns was placed on the hope that taxpayers would check a box. With tax filing day past, election leaders estimate the fund will reach $1.4 million, which is about $400,000 under the bare minimum needed.

"Every new program will have growing pains. Every new program will need technical adjustments," said Gary Bartlett, of the State Board of Elections.

State Appeals Court candidates like Judge Wanda Bryant are counting on public financing to run their campaigns, but she has her worries.

"I am concerned that there might not be enough money to totally fund all of the races, including my own," Bryant said.

Donations to the public campaign will help, but any changes in the expected number of candidates who take part could leave the system millions of dollars short.

For instance, Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr has announced he is retiring in August. If that happens, any number of candidates could run to replace him. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Newby is one of those candidates who feels he deserves public financing.

"There may be no funds left in the public financing pool so even though we are certified, we will probably not get any funds out of it," he said.

Since Orr plans to retire so late in the campaign season, the state Attorney General will be asked to decide if candidates for the seat are eligible for public funds.