Daily Grat: An Uncontested Election

I’m not sure how to write this entry without sounding overly proud. I get that perhaps nobody outside a candidate and her family can understand this “Daily Gratitude.” But it’s one that rings true inside our house today.

Dennise was uncontested in the Democratic Primary election yesterday. She got 100 percent of the votes cast. The cool thing is that even though she *was* uncontested, she got a significant number of votes….more than in some of the other uncontested races. Which is a humbling thing, really.

The even more amazing thing is this: Dennise is also uncontested in the general election too! That means, barring something almost inconceivable, she’ll be elected to serve four more year, putting her at *ten* full years by the time this next term is finished.

Wow.

I get that many folks think uncontested elections are an anathema to democracy. So, as I just said, lots of folks won’t appreciate my own personal feelings on this morning.

If you disagree, I’ll just ask you to stop and consider that
a) These are *my* daily gratitudes…the things I am personally grateful for; and
b) I’m not really assuming you have to agree with me.

So, this morning, I am grateful for this one specific uncontested election.
∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Dennise chose to run in 2004, to fill the unexpired term of Judge Richard Johnson, who died suddenly while in office. In fact, she was the first declared candidate for the bench. She announced her intentions even before Governor Perry appointed someone to fill it temporarily.

She knew it was the right time to run. Even if she lost, she knew that, eventually Democrats would again begin to win elections in Dallas County. Mathematically, it was not a question of “if” it would happen, but “when.”

Truth be told, that was an extremely hard campaign, personally. She was told, time and time again, that she had no chance of winning in Dallas County. People all but insinuated she was crazy for running. It was a very lonely way to run to have to run campaign. There were only seven Democrats running, county-wide. I think people in both parties sort of pitied them.

Then, she won. In fact, half the Democrats in that election won. It was amazing. We knew it *might* happen, but right up until the moment it did, it didn’t seem real.

You might think that with this would come some degree of acceptance. And acceptance and generous welcome *did* come from many quarters. But there were still some who saw her election as some kind of fluke or mistake. These folks chalked up her election to some external reason:

— People were sending a message to George Bush
— People voted for her because she is a woman (so was her opponent)
— People voted for her because of the name “Garcia.”

Whatever. The point is, *some* folks (it should be said, by no means all or even a majority…) had excuses for why she had won and a Republican had lost. And so, for two years, she lived with a sense that *some* folks saw her election as an illegitimate mistake. These folks held their breath and treated her with arms length. (In some cases, they did more than that. But we’re not going there today. Or ever, really.)

Again, nobody outside a very small circle of people can know what a chalenging time this was at the courthouse, and how stoically, calmly and non-defensively she reacted to things that were thrown at her. Trust me, I haven’t told you *half* the story.

But I saw it. I saw how, every day she’d come home, as if she was having to prove herself all over again in ways other judges didn’t have to. As if winning an actual election had not been enough.

No one can really understand how lonely this was.

Then, a short two years later, she had to run again. As an aside, let me say that I don’t know how members of Congress (and their families) do it. How they defend their elected seat every two years borders on incredible. I now understand why *they* feel like they are in constant campaign mode.

Because that’s really how it felt to us. Not even a year into being a judge, it was time to seriously start running again…this time against another opponent.

She won that election too, but now the meaning was far different for everybody. As you may remember, Democrats swept the 2006 elections, winning just about every county-wide race. Instead of half of seven candidates winning, it was all of more than forty!

You can’t imagine what vindication this felt like. Dennise *hadn’t* been crazy to run as a Democrat. In fact, in the minds of some, overnight she went from crazy to genius.

She won by the widest margin of any countywide race in more than ten years (for a judge of either party….Republican or Democrat…). And she won a full term.

We could, for a while, breathe.

It’s four years later, now. If I do say so myself, Dennise is very highly regarded as a judge. I’m completely biased, of course. But she did get among the highest “Bar Poll” ratings of any judge, and the Dallas Observer named her in their “Best Of” issue.  Consistently, total strangers come up to me to say what a great job she’s doing, how fair she is, and what a fantastic courtroom demeanor she has. They don’t have to do that. (I have a bad enough memory that I never remember their names, so they don’t get anything from it, personally)

I believe they do it because it’s true, and because they are grateful for her service.

The filing deadline for the 2010 election was January 4th. And, as I said above, nobody else filed on the Republican or Democratic side for the 303rd District Court race.

That night, as we gathered at the filing night party, the truth was just sinking in. Not only had Dennise not drawn an opponent in the primary, but she hadn’t drawn one in the general election either.

It was a feeling beyond belief.

It was not a feeling of elation or triumphalism, really. It was more a feeling that this was uncharted territory. How does one react to such news?

I mean, she’s gone from being considered a quixotic outsider; to being a clear and decisive winner; to being considered one of the best judges around; to being uncontested.

Good Lord. What a journey.

I can tell you this: she doesn’t take it for granted. She knows it’s an amazing, and somewhat rarified, position to be in. She knows that it doesn’t mean *every* election will be so. And, she knows that now is the time to guard against excessive overconfidence.

It’s not a coronation; but it is a quirk of our democracy.

She’s watching out for “judgeitis,” (a terminal condition wherein judges come to feel they *deserve* their positions); while also trying to accept the affirmation that this really is.

It’s a lot to take in. And, as always, I am so incredibly proud of what she has accomplished.

So, in ways that perhaps other people can never understand fully (nor do I expect them to) I am grateful for uncontested elections. Or, at least during this season of life, I am grateful for THIS one.
And on the morning after the election, it’s a very deep and very real, daily gratitude.

(During this year, my goal is to find something new to be thankful for every single day, and to add that thanksgiving as a blog entry, under the title “My Daily Gratitude.” I started this kick back around Thanksgiving, and it’s already resulted in a favorite new song of mine. The goal of this ongoing spiritual exercise is to see if doing such a thing might inspire even more gratitude within me, and to foster general awareness of life on a deeper level.)

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

2 thoughts on “Daily Grat: An Uncontested Election

  1. Good judges should be retained and shouldn't have to undergo the constant uncertainty of elections. Dennise has the credentials, the accolades–I think it's fantastic that she doesn't have to worry about running and losing in the fall. I get so stressed out over election results that I make myself crazy, and my job isn't even dependent on the results. So by all means be grateful.

  2. What you say makes a lot of sense.There are arguments to be made against uncontested races. When I was growing up, the man who represented my district in Washington had been in office for more than 30 years and he had frequently been unchallenged in primaries and general elections. He got complacent and forgot who he worked for. You may have heard of him. Wilbur Mills.Dennise has been a pioneer. As long as she remembers the source of her authority, I believe she will have more uncontested elections in her future.

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