201st Court: Meachum Runaway
Patterson's Perry links scupper her district court plan
By Michael King,
4:05PM, Wed. Mar. 3, 2010
At the 15th St. Texadelphia on Tuesday, they couldn't have been happier if they were stuffing themselves with mesquite-flavored cheesesteaks. As soon as early voting returns were announced – showing guest of honor Amy Clark Meachum trouncing her opponent Jan Patterson for the 201st District Court nomination – it was a victory party.
Meachum herself was surprised and a little distracted at the primary outcome (and de facto general election win.) "I'm excited and very, very pleased," she told NewsDesk. "I think people were ready for a change, we ran a good campaign, and we got the support of a lot of different people. The Democratic base supported us, just a lot of people came together to help us win."
The headline issue had been Patterson's desire to step down from the Third Court of Appeals – which would have given Gov. Rick Perry the opportunity to directly shift the court's balance to the Republicans – and then her apparent solicitation of a district court appointment from Perry to give her a "short-cut" to election. Austin state Sen. Kirk Watson blocked the appointment, but Patterson had angered Democratic loyalists and created an opening for civil attorney Meachum to challenge the longtime judge, who had subsequently filed for the 201st. "The people of Travis Co. did not want Perry picking their judges for us, said Meachum, and they've spoken on that tonight."
Asked about her opponent's criticisms that Meachum lacked sufficient experience, Meachum pointed to the Austin Bar Association poll in which she also defeated Patterson. "I've had ten years' experience as an attorney, and most people who become district court judge haven't been a judge before. I think the bar poll reflects that the attorneys believe I can be a lawyer's lawyer on the bench. I told them that that's kind of judge I want to be, and I hope I can live up to that promise."
Among the early revelers at Texadelphia was former state rep. Glen Maxey, who had filed an ethics complaint against Patterson and was among her most outspoken opponents. “All of us are shocked by [Meachum's] margin,” Maxey said. “When you go up against a longtime judge, who has been on the ballot many times, you expect an uphill fight. These are early numbers, but many voters have only heard the hard facts in the last few days. [Meachum's lead] should only go up." Asked his response to Patterson's claim that the "party bosses had determined this race, Maxey said, "The party bosses are the Democratic electorate." (The final report indeed showed Meachum slightly increasing her margin: 68% to 32%.)
When the first numbers had been posted, NewsDesk visited the Güero's vestibule, where Patterson was holding her watch party with a couple of dozen supporters. Asked if she had any response to the disappointing early returns, she confirmed the numbers on the bar TV but said, “I won't be able to make any comment until there are more votes.” When we stopped by again just before 10pm, the tables had been cleared and moved aside, and Patterson was gone. "They left about an hour ago," said the restaurant's host.