Shuffield talks campaigning, judicial elections with local media

By Marilyn Tennissen | Nov 20, 2012

It’s been said that all candidates running for office go to bed worried and wake up worried. Milton “Mickey” Shuffield said that was true as he campaigned to retain his seat on the Jefferson County 136thDistrict Court.

Shuffield, a Democrat who successfully beat a Republican challenger on Nov. 6, recently shared his experiences on the campaign trail with members of the Press Club of Southeast Texas.

It was difficult, he said, running a campaign and running a court full time.

“I was fortunate to have many friends in northern and mid-Jefferson County who did the yeoman’s work,” Shuffield said at Café del Rio on Nov. 15. “They really helped connect me to the community. From there it just expands exponentially.”

Since first being elected in 1996, Shuffield has not had a challenger until he faced Republican Rick Williams in the 2012 election. He said some things were different in campaigning this year than 16 years ago. For one thing, there was no real debate held between he and Williams, only a pre-primary community forum, whereas in 1996 he debated his opponent on the radio. Much of his time was spent speaking to small groups and focusing on contact through the media, he said.

Shuffield said at first it was a little difficult asking for campaign contributions after 16 years, “but it got easier.”

“It’s not as hard raising money in judicial races as in other races, because the local Bar knows the importance of the election and they step up,” he said.

In these days of mud-slinging and attack ads, Shuffield said he felt he was treated fairly by the mainstream media, although there were some “unkind and untrue” things written by bloggers on the Internet.

As a judge, Shuffield said he worked hard to remove politics from his campaign. But, he said the practice in Texas of allowing voters to select a straight party ticket “punishes down-ballot candidates.”

Nearly 60,000 people voted straight party in Jefferson County on Nov. 6, with 60 percent of those choosing a straight Democrat ticket.

He said there is growing support on both sides of the aisle to stop the straight party option.

Texas is also one of the states that still elects district judges, and Shuffield said there are two schools of thought on that practice. If judges are appointed it removes a lot of the politics. However, once a judge is in office, political parties get involved when it comes time for the judge to run for retention.

He pointed out that the landmark legal decisions made in this country, such as Brown v Board of Education, Roe v Wade, etc., have all been made by federal judges who were not worrying about getting reelected.

“Whether they have an elephant or a donkey on their pajamas shouldn’t have anything to do with a judge’s ability to decide cases,” he said.

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