By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
At first glance, there seems little danger that R.D. Rucker, Democratic candidate for the 292nd Judicial District, might actually win.
After all, the days when a Democrat would automatically sweep into office are long gone. Dallas hasn't elected a Democrat to a trial court bench since 1992, when John Creuzot ran for the post--and he subsequently switched parties. For the last five years, the game at Democratic Party headquarters has been finding suckers willing to run.
"It's no secret that for a number of years the party has had significant problems recruiting candidates," sighs Ken Molberg, who for years ran, and some maintain single-handedly constituted Dallas' local Democratic Party. "There was a period there that we had a wide array of people--I believe around '92. I forget, '90, '92...And then, after the [Gov.] Bush defeat of Richards, it all kind of petered out."
Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that they haven't exactly vetted their lone candidate for judge. Since 1994, R.D. Rucker, a 48-year-old criminal defense attorney, has been the only Democrat with the will to try for a seat on a county bench. Rucker, a familiar face at the Frank Crowley Criminal Courts Building, ran for County Criminal Court No. 8 in 1994 and was defeated by Vickers Cunningham, 42 percent to 58 percent. He tried again in 1996, this time for Criminal District Court No. 4, only to go down to Manny Alvarez, 44 percent to 56 percent.
A hearty sort, Rucker is set to try again. This fall he'll take on Henry "Hank" Wade Jr., the Republican candidate in a contest for the 292nd Judicial District. Rucker has already raised a grand total of $200--more than he's ever raised this early in past campaigns. By now an expert at running campaigns on a shoestring, he's already printing signs, sending out fliers, trying once more for the brass ring. Indeed, if persistence is any criterion, one day he'll make it to the bench.
And more's the pity. Because, despite having run for judge for the better part of a decade, Rucker's own party doesn't seem to realize they're running a man whose writings reveal him as one of the most sexist and racist candidates to come along in Dallas County, which has a long and not-so-distinguished history of putting such men in black robes.
Yet thanks in part to the absence of a local Democratic Party structure, and in part to massive public apathy toward judicial elections, one of these days we may see him on the bench.
If not this fall, then soon. It's just a matter of time, says Molberg. "If you look at the stats, since '88 the [Democratic] numbers have been inching up. Ultimately, they will result in [Democrats] controlling the courthouse countywide."
On paper, few judicial candidates appear more qualified than the quiet, soft-spoken Rucker.
His resume, faxed at the Dallas Observer's request, lists his impressive accomplishments: a bachelor's in history from the University of Arkansas, a master's and doctorate in that same subject from the University of Iowa, including a two-year fellowship at Columbia University, and post-graduate study in Russia.
After earning his law degree from the University of Texas in 1985, he worked at a series of government jobs, first as an assistant attorney general, then as an assistant district attorney in Waco and a public defender in Wichita Falls. Since 1988, he has been a defense attorney in Dallas, and since 1992, he's been trying to get to the bench.
Rucker is a man on a mission. As he explained it to the Observer, "I am trying to promote the family agenda. Since the Dallas Observer has made an issue of my views on marriage and the family, I believe in the traditional family, a family based on a man and woman united around love and children." Indeed, beliefs about the family form the core of what he calls his "judicial philosophy":
"Those who commit crimes tend to have experienced a childhood family environment where the bonds of caring, affection, and love were exceptionally weak or absent. Ultimately, then, we will need to restructure our families on the basis of love. However, while this approach will best address and reduce our crime problem in the future, at present, we must more vigorously mitigate against crime, and protect ourselves from it," Rucker writes.
If it all sounds like typical liberal psychobabble, updated with a Clintonian, new-Democrat, "family values" gloss--well, rest assured that it isn't. In a series of books, Rucker unveils his truly amazing theories of what causes crime.
It all comes down to sexual orientation.
Rucker explains his theories in self-published books and pamphlets, available both at the public library and, by request, from courthouse gossips. The latest volume in this extraordinary series is a manifesto titled Marriage, Love and the Family: An Investigation into the Role of the Black Woman in the African-American Family, copies of which were circulating at the Frank Crowley Criminal Courts Building last week.
Like Freud, Rucker buys the instinctual-drive theory of what moves man; all human misbehavior, his writings suggest, is based on sexuality. According to Rucker, who plants himself firmly in the nurture side of the great nature vs. nurture debate, mankind begins life as a wee tabula rasa waiting to be screwed up by the folks. Rucker believes that human sexual orientation is determined exclusively by the quality of parenting one receives during the first five years of life.