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Incumbency has not given Texas Supreme Court Justice Steven Wayne Smith a leg up in fund-raising for his re-election bid. His March 9 Republican primary opponent, 4th Court of Appeals Justice Paul Green, received 10 times more in campaign contributions than Smith did last month, according to the latest campaign finance reports. The reports, filed with the Texas Ethics Commission to meet a Feb. 9 deadline, show Green took in $100,625 during January, compared to the $10,180 Smith raised. The Justice Paul Green for Texas Supreme Court Committee filed Green’s report, and Smith filed an individual report. Green also outpaced Smith in raising funds late last year. Reports filed with the Ethics Commission in mid-January show Smith raised $32,300 and made a $20,000 loan to his campaign in the last half of 2003, while Green raised $179,668, including a $5,000 contribution from his 4th Court officeholder account, between mid-October and the end of the year. Anthony Champagne, a University of Texas at Dallas political science professor who has studied state Supreme Court races for more than two decades, says he is surprised that Smith is so far behind Green in fund-raising. “I thought that being an incumbent, no matter how personally unpopular he might be with leading Republicans, and winning with a pretty strong vote last time locked him in,” Champagne says. Smith says Republican primary voters will decide the upcoming election. “I expect to remain very popular with those voters as reflected by my endorsements by leading social conservatives.” Among those who have endorsed Smith are Cathie Adams, president of Texas Eagle Forum; Tim Lambert, a Republican national committee member and president of the Texas Home School Coalition; and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Clute. In the March 2002 GOP primary, Smith shocked political analysts by defeating then-Supreme Court Justice Xavier Rodriguez -� a Gov. Rick Perry appointee �- by 9 percentage points. Rodriguez, now a U.S. district judge for the Western District in San Antonio, lost the race even though he spent approximately $558,000 on the race, while Smith spent only $9,500. [ See " Smith Upsets X-Rod in Shocking High Court Republican Primary," Texas Lawyer, March 18, 2002, page 1.] Smith defeated Democrat Margaret Mirabal in the November 2002 general election. Mirabal, who was a justice on Houston’s 1st Court of Appeals at the time, spent almost $1 million, mostly contributed by firms, during her campaign. [ See "Money, Endorsements Not as Important as Candidates' Party," Texas Lawyer, Nov. 11, 2002, page 1.] Mike Gruber, managing partner of Dallas’ Godwin Gruber, says the fact that Green has raised more money than Smith may not be surprising. “It seems [Green] has the backing of the Republican Party establishment,” Gruber says. Green has said he has been assured of the governor’s “unqualified support” in the GOP primary. [ See "Smith Draws First Opponent for 2004 Race," Texas Lawyer, Sept. 22, 2003, page 1.] So far, Perry has not announced his endorsement of Green. However, one of Perry’s closest allies is playing a key role in Green’s campaign. Austin banker James Huffhines, Perry’s statewide campaign chairman in 2002, is Green’s campaign treasurer. Smith says he has tried several times to set up meetings with the governor and his top aides but has been rebuffed. “They just wouldn’t set a meeting,” he says. Kathy Walt, Perry’s press secretary, says the governor receives “many, many requests from people who want to meet with him.” There’s not enough time on the schedule to meet with them all, she says. Smith says some people have told him that the support that Green is receiving from Perry’s allies is the reason they want to stay neutral in the race. “I’ve gotten that reaction from law firms that traditionally give in these races,” Smith says, but he declines to identify any of the firms. One of the firms not listed as a contributor in either Smith’s or Green’s report is Vinson & Elkins. Tom Marinis, treasurer of V&E’s Texas Political Action Committee, says the firm usually doesn’t make a contribution until it’s asked to do so. Smith just recently made a request. “We’re in the process of making a contribution to Justice Smith,” Marinis says, adding that the firm is giving $5,000. “A substantial number of partners [in V&E] have made [individual] contributions to Justice Green,” Marinis says. Equally Generous Some firms have contributed to both candidates. Gruber handed Smith a $5,000 check at a June 2003 fund-raising event held for the incumbent in Dallas. [See "In With the In Crowd," Texas Lawyer, Aug. 25, 2003, page 1.] Godwin Gruber also contributed $5,000 to Green in November 2003, Green’s January report shows. Gruber says a number of lawyers at Godwin Gruber know Green and wanted to support him. “We gave to Justice Smith before Justice Green got in the race,” says George Bramblett, a partner in Haynes and Boone in Dallas, which contributed $2,500 to each candidate. “We want to encourage qualified people to run for these offices,” Bramblett says. According to the campaign finance reports filed in 2004, other firms contributed to both candidates: Beirne, Maynard & Parsons in Houston gave $5,000 to Smith and $2,500 to Green; Baker Botts Amicus Fund gave $1,500 to Smith and $2,500 to Green; Jackson Walker in Dallas and Houston gave $2,500 to Smith and $5,000 to Green; Susman Godfrey in Houston gave $1,000 to each candidate; and Thompson & Knight in Dallas gave $2,500 to Smith and $5,000 to Green. Smith says the fund-raising effort is going about how he expected. “My main concern is to have sufficient funds on hand to get my message out to voters,” Smith says. However, an e-mail Smith sent to attorneys requesting that they support him in the State Bar of Texas judicial poll was not well received by some recipients. In the Feb. 9 e-mail, Smith said Green “has sought to impugn my qualifications, requiring me to set the record straight.” Smith said in the e-mail that he graduated with honors from the University of Texas School of Law, while Green “graduated from a school at the bottom tier of all law schools in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report,” and “did so without distinction.” Green says he graduated from St. Mary’s University School of Law. So did U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, formerly a justice on the state Supreme Court and a Texas attorney general. “I don’t know what could have brought on his going after St. Mary’s law school,” Green says. Roger Cox, a 1983 graduate of St. Mary’s law school, wrote in an e-mail responding to Smith’s e-mail that he was “deeply offended by your swipe at your opponent’s alma mater.” Cox, a shareholder in Amarillo’s Sanders Baker, wrote in his e-mail that he had voted for Smith in the last election but declines to do so this time around. “This time, my vote will go to the judge from the bottom-tier school — call it my version of affirmative action,” Cox wrote in the e-mail. In an interview, Cox says he received a response from David Rogers, Smith’s campaign manager, who pointed out that Smith’s e-mail did not actually name the school. “Like it takes a genius to figure it out,” Cox says. Rogers says the e-mail was sent to refute Green’s description of Smith as a “weak link.” Smith used an objective measure �- the fact that he graduated with honors from a top law school -� to refute that description, Rogers says. In a P.S. at the bottom of his e-mail, Smith provided his campaign’s address so recipients could make contributions. “That made me sick,” Brian Becker, president of Dallas’ Brian Becker & Associates, says of Smith’s e-mail. “I don’t remember ever receiving an e-mail like that before.” In a reply e-mail to Smith, Becker said the current system of electing judges places Texas in “terribly unfortunate risks and potential conflict situations,” especially when a judge bashes his opponent and asks for money from lawyers who practice before him. Rogers says Smith sent the e-mail to 7, 000 State Bar members. Smith says he doesn’t think it is surprising that a candidate would close an e-mail to voters with a statement about where they can send contributions if they want to support that candidate. Smith says his campaign staff thought it would be helpful to contact voters in Texas about the Bar poll. He says he doesn’t think it is surprising that a candidate’s campaign would close an e-mail to voters with a statement about where they can send contributions if they want to support the candidate. “In Texas, we have elections,” Smith says. “The way to reach voters is to raise money to get your message out.” Aaron Strasser, Green’s campaign manager, says the campaign has sent e-mails to attorneys, business people and law enforcement officials interested in helping Green to keep them up-to-date on the campaign. “On some of the e-mails, we’ve let people know where checks can be sent,” Strasser says. Green’s e-mail also names people in groups supporting his candidacy but makes no mention of Smith.

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