While the country's attention was focused on Sen. Barack Obama's historic win in Tuesday's presidential election, he wasn't the only candidate to win office this week. Voters across the country also cast ballots for state Supreme Court justices, appellate court judges and attorneys general in some of the most expensive such races in U.S. history.
Lawyers in Harris County, Texas, are waking up to what will be a very different courthouse come January. A surge of voters who packed the polls to vote for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama helped the Democrats in a near sweep of the more than 20 civil and criminal benches, tossing out some longtime Republican incumbents who've been judges for more than 20 years.
Associate Justice Bob Edmunds edged out Suzanne Reynolds for a seat on North Carolina's Supreme Court Tuesday, winning a race that maintains a Republican edge on the bench despite the fact that partisanship was not a factor. State lawmakers removed party affiliations from the ballot for judicial candidates in 2004. But there are currently four registered Republicans and three Democrats on the court. Had Reynolds won, she would have given Democrats a majority on the high bench for the first time since 1998.
In a closely watched local race, San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre lost to California state court judge Jan Goldsmith. But it's no surprise that Aguirre faced a tough reelection this year. He's made a lot of enemies in the city, including the three Am Law 100 law firms that Aguirre spurred lawsuits against, actions stemming from San Diego's pension crisis.
Ending a campaign that was marked with nasty attack ads by both sides, Democrat Chris Koster beat Republican Mike Gibbons to become Missouri's first new attorney general in 16 years. The attorney general's office was open because longtime Democratic incumbent Jay Nixon instead ran for governor.
Republican Greg Shaw has taken a 7,300-vote lead over Democrat Deborah Bell Paseur for the Alabama Supreme Court. But final precinct counts are being awaited Wednesday to decide a bitterly contested race that maintained Alabama's tradition of expensive court races where black robes end up muddy. While the Supreme Court race was undecided, Republicans swept the other three races for Alabama's appellate courts.
A Flint, Mich., trial lawyer with the right last name for the ballot will sit on the Michigan Court of Appeals after defeating a Lansing-area trial judge. Michael Kelly has an Irish surname that likely gave him an edge in the low-profile race. Marilyn Kelly (no relation) is on the Michigan Supreme Court, and Frank Kelley was Michigan's longtime attorney general.
Three sitting members of the Mississippi Supreme Court were ousted Tuesday by voters. Chief Justice Jim Smith, Presiding Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. and Justice Chuck Easley lost to opponents in balloting. Attorney Jim Kitchens defeated Smith, who had been on the court for 15 years, the past four years as chief justice.