Very close race leads to GOP runoff for Texas Supreme Court seat

Marilyn Tennissen Mar. 3, 2010, 5:00am


There will be a runoff in the GOP for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court, but exactly which Republicans will be on the ballot is still up in the air.

Six candidates ran in Tuesday's Republican primary for a chance at the Place 3 spot on the high court, which is being vacated by Republican Justice Harriet O'Neill who chose not to run for reelection.

But as of Wednesday morning, none of the six had garnered more than 19 percent of the votes. At this point, it looks like former state Rep. Rick Green has squeaked ahead of the pack with 18.96 percent of the votes and will be one name on the runoff ballot in April.

However three other candidates, all experienced jurists, also hovered around the 18 percent mark.

Once votes are finalized, Green's most likely opponent will be Fort Worth District Court Judge Debra Lehrmann, who earned 18.22 percent of the votes.

But Jim Moseley, a justice on the Fifth District Court of Appeals, also earned about 18.22 percent, with Rebecca Simmons of the Fourth District Court of Appeals in San Antonio getting 18.03 percent.

The margin between Lehrmann and Moseley appears is only about 1,000 votes out of more than 1.1 million votes cast in the primary.

Houston Appellate Judge Jeff Brown followed the group at 17 percent, while Rick Strange of the 11th District Court of Appeals in Midland came up with only 10 percent of the votes.

Green represented the Dripping Springs area in central Texas as state representative from 1999 to 2003. During the 76th legislative session, Green helped pass a law that stopped cities from filing frivolous lawsuits against gun dealers. In his campaign, he promoted the fact that he was the only candidate that was not an attorney or a judge.

But Green has also seen his share of controversy, including a shoving and punching match on Election Day 2006 with state Rep. Patrick Rose, the Democrat who succeeded him in Dripping Springs.

As a representative, Green was criticized for using his Capitol office as the setting for a health supplement infomercial for a company. He also made Texas Monthly's list of the 10 worst legislators.

But during the run up to the primary, the former lawmaker had endorsements from actor Chuck Norris and several conservative lawmakers in the state.

The winner of the runoff will face Democrat Jim Sharp in the November general election.

Democrats have not had a seat on the Texas high court since 1998.

In another race, for Place 9 on the Texas Supreme Court, Eva Guzman held on to her seat.

The former justice of the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston was appointed in October by Rick Perry to to fill the seat vacated by Justice Scott Brister, who resigned with more than a year left in his term. Guzman beat challenger Rose Vela in the Republican primary with 65 percent of the votes.

In the most publicized race in the state, Republicans chose incumbent Rick Perry as their candidate for governor in November. Perry won 51 percent of the votes, beating U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who had been an early favorite but came away with 30 percent of the votes, and Debra Medina who earned 19.

Former Houston mayor Bill White will be the Democratic nominee to face Perry. White earned 76 percent of the Democratic votes, with businessman Farouk Shami bringing in 13 percent.

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