Two for the show

With Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Diane Marie Hathaway’s announcement of her Michigan Supreme Court candidacy during a press conference call last Tuesday, the Michigan Democratic Party now has two high court candidates to choose from at its state convention this weekend.

Deborah Thomas, also a circuit judge in Wayne County, has been seeking the nomination for months.

One of them will emerge as the MDP’s nominee this weekend.

Hathaway came out swinging on Tuesday, calling Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Clifford Taylor “a walking conflict of interest” who rules for insurance companies the bulk of the time, and, says Hathaway, will get millions of dollars in support from insurers and large corporations. Taylor has raised nearly $1.5 million so far for his re-election campaign.

The odds favor Hathaway for the nomination. She’s picked up key endorsements from the AFL-CIO, the United Auto Workers, the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Association for Justice. Hathaway told reporters she was in the process of securing additional endorsements, prompting one of the newshounds to ask, “Who else do you need?”

Don’t count Thomas out, though. Her campaign web site is replete with criticism of Taylor’s and the Republican majority’s jurisprudence. She’s had plenty to say about why a Hathaway candidacy will fall flat. She’s planning a strong convention presence and told me earlier this afternoon that she’ll be there this weekend “with every last vote” from her supporters.

No matter which of the two MSC hopefuls gets the nomination, she will face the uphill battle of knocking off the incumbent Taylor, the Michigan Republican Party’s choice for the November ballot. Each has been on the short end of the electoral stick before. Hathaway lost a bid for the Court of Appeals in 2006. Thomas had an unsuccessful run for the Michigan Supreme Court in 2004.

Bill Ballenger, editor and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, has remarked to me in the past that 95 percent of all incumbent judges in Michigan in the last 20 years have been re-elected.

Long odds for a challenger, no matter who gets the nod.


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