By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"This is all news to me," says Molberg, the former head of the Dallas County Democratic Party, on whose watch Rucker first began running for judge.
"It's distressing," said Molberg, upon learning of Rucker's writings. "I did not know he was a writer. Frankly, in my limited dealings with him, I was unaware of that."
Indeed, Molberg himself lets slip the dirty little secret of judicial races: Even at the party level, nobody's watching.
Molberg--himself a lawyer and the senior executive committee member of the state Democratic Party--admits that even he doesn't usually scrutinize the party's candidates for the criminal bench. "Not being a criminal lawyer, I have a tendency not to pay attention to the criminal courts, 'cause I'm always focusing so much on the civil courts."
As he readily concedes, the party is in a bit of disarray. "It's no secret that the party has had problems for, I dunno, four, five, six years, recruiting," he says. "And the fact is, just like the Republicans know, is that anybody can walk in and file to run for office."
If the Dems aren't exactly patrolling the beat, neither are other self-appointed watchdog organizations. Somewhat frighteningly, Rucker is endorsed by The Committee for a Qualified Judiciary, a nonpartisan group of lawyers and businesspeople who put judicial candidates through the most vigorous check they get. "It's not a rubber stamp for anybody," says Bart Cousins, who chairs the groups evaluation committee but was unaware of Rucker's writings.
"There's certain things you can do," acknowledges Molberg. "I won't mention names, but, ah, I know that I actually strong-armed two or three--well, actually more, but--two or three people out of races who had filed, because I felt that they were...that their candidacy would be a disservice to the party."
The irony, of course, is that Rucker is running for the bench currently occupied by one of the Republican's own embarrassments, Mike Keasler. Judge Keasler recently had to issue an apology after a former bailiff produced racist notes the judge had passed to him over the years.
Rucker has a formidable opponent for Keasler's bench: Henry Wade Jr., son of the legendary cigar-chomping prosecutor who ran the Dallas County District Attorney's office for decades. With $19,000 in campaign contributions and virtually the entire population of the Crowley Courts building behind him, there seems little danger that this will be Rucker's year.
Indeed, Wade seems so confident that he doesn't intend to raise the topic of Rucker's writings in the general election.
"It's a contested campaign, but you know, in judicial elections, in a general election with a Democrat and a Republican, there's really not a whole lot of, you know, face-to-face contact.
"I think it's the same for Republicans and Democrats. When they have somebody that they want to run, they certainly encourage 'em and help 'em, either raising money or scaring off other people. When they have somebody that they don't want running, then they can do things to discourage 'em. But usually that's in a situation where, it's more in primaries, they have selected someone they want to win; they would discourage the others."
Of course, Dallas County Democratic primaries are less populated than the Sahara. And without any party structure to speak of, there's no one to do the party's necessary dirty work--no one except a passel of curious Republicans.
"I can't make it an issue until I read the book," says Hank Wade Jr. "Now you've got my curiosity piqued.
"I have heard. I have not read 'em, but I have heard about, at least, parts of 'em. Where'd you get 'em?" he asks.