Editor’s Notebook: Christian Disgust in Judicial Race

Editor’s Notebook: Christian Disgust in Judicial Race

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

As I write this, it’s Election Day in Georgia. Republican and Democratic primaries and nonpartisan elections are being held for members of Congress, state legislators, judges, and other state and local offices.

In the jackpot of 2016 elections, it’s our second chance to play with the electronic voting machines. The first was the SEC Primary on March 1 to pick the presidential nominees.

Up next for many of us will be runoff voting July 26 for the May 24 primaries and nonpartisan elections because Georgia requires a majority to win an election.

AJT Editor Michael Jacobs
AJT Editor Michael Jacobs

National Election Day on Nov. 8 won’t necessarily end the voting for the year. If a third-party candidate prevents anyone from winning a majority for a local or state office, a runoff will be held Dec. 6. If that happens in a congressional election or Sen. Johnny Isakson’s run for re-election, we’ll go into electoral overtime and vote again Jan. 10.

But no matter how many times Georgians go to the polls, we’re unlikely to see campaign literature as vile as the mailer DeKalb County judicial candidate Roderick Bridges sent out in the final week of his race to unseat State Court Judge Dax Lopez.

In a “tale of the tape” comparison between the men, Bridges presented a list of attributes that was both confusing and misleading:

  • “Experience,” which could be experience in DeKalb courtrooms or experience playing pinochle. (It’s actually experience on the bench, but it’s a Traffic Court seat for Bridges.)
  • “Politic” (not politics), with the accusation that Lopez, who has been a Republican, “claims he’s Obama’s boy in South DeKalb,” while Bridges denies being a politician at all.
  • “Arrest attorney,” a reference to an incident two years ago when Lopez held a lawyer in contempt of court for sending an email to beg out of jury duty.
  • “Suspended,” Bridges’ inaccurate way of bringing up Lopez’s nomination for a federal judgeship. Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) blocked the nomination from being debated or voted on during the session. Lopez has never been suspended from the bench.
  • “Remove from office,” which reads like an accusation but is just a hope that voters will reject Lopez. Never having held office, Bridges, of course, has never been removed.

It’s not a noble list. For a judicial election, it approaches or crosses a number of lines. But it would be a forgettable piece of politics if not for the final item on the list, Bridges’ closing argument: “Christian” — yes for him, no for Lopez, who is Jewish and a member of The Temple.

In 2016 in metro Atlanta, a candidate for judge tried to win over voters by resorting to religious bigotry, if not outright anti-Semitism.

“We weren’t trying to offend anybody, especially in the Jewish population,” Bridges told The Daily Report after he came under criticism.

Lopez wanted nothing to do with Bridges’ excuse-filled apology. The judge’s reaction is understandable because it’s not the first time this year that a political opponent used religion against him.

In January, as anti-immigration forces lobbied for Georgia’s U.S. senators to halt Lopez’s nomination to the U.S. District Court, a blogger wrote that while he couldn’t understand anyone rejecting Jesus, he wasn’t questioning the sincerity of Lopez’s conversion to Judaism as a young man. Wink wink, nod nod.

As a newspaperman, I’m not supposed to root in elections, but I am today. I hope that by the time you read this, Lopez will have won re-election for two reasons: He’s a good man and a good judge, and his opponent has shown such bad judgment and ugly bias that he should never judge the guilt or innocence of others.

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