201st District Court: Meachum Runaway

Primary election results

Amy Clark Meachum (center)
Amy Clark Meachum (center) (Photo by John Anderson)

At the 15th Street Texadelphia Tuesday night, they couldn't have been happier if they'd been stuffing themselves with mesquite-flavored cheesesteaks. From the moment the early voting returns were announced – showing the guest of honor, Amy Clark Meachum, leading her opponent, Jan Patterson, for the 201st District Court nomination (and de facto election) by a two-to-one margin – this was a victory party.

Meachum herself was surprised and a little distracted at the outcome. "I'm excited and very, very pleased," she said. "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 headline issue in the race had been Patterson's desire to step down from the 3rd 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 shortcut 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 County 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 10 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."

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." Asked his response to Patterson's claim that the "party bosses" had determined this race, Maxey said, "The party bosses are the Democratic electorate."

Patterson held her watch party at Güero's. Early in the evening, despite the grim returns, she told the Chronicle, "I won't be able to make any comment until there are more votes." The final report showed Meachum slightly increasing her margin: 68% to 32%. When we stopped by again just before 10pm, the tables had been cleared and Patterson was gone. "They left about an hour ago," said the restaurant's host.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

201st District Court, Amy Meachum, Jan Patterson, election 2010, election

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