A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

National ultra-right group targets NKY Supreme Court race, two other judicial contests in the state

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter

The state Supreme Court race in Northern Kentucky between incumbent Michelle Keller and state Rep. Joe Fischer of Ft. Thomas is one of three nonpartisan judicial races in the state that a conservative super political action committee is targeting with its goal of defending state courts from “the radical left.”
The others on the hit list for Fair Courts America-Kentucky are the state Supreme Court race in south-central Kentucky to replace retiring Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. of Bowling Green and the Franklin Circuit Court judgeship race in Frankfort between incumbent Phillip Shepherd and attorney Joe Bilby.

Fair Courts America, an entity launched by Restoration PAC, the third-largest conservative super-PAC in the country only behind by Americans for Prosperity and Clubs for Growth, wants to spend $1.64 million in the three Kentucky races.

It has started a $90,000 TV ad this weekend with Frankfort’s TV cable system.

Diana Taylor, a volunteer spokesperson for Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd’s campaign, said Friday, “It is an insult to Franklin countians – and to all Kentuckians – that this shadowy, dark money group is targeting Judge Shepherd and other judges in our state.

“Their focus on defeating Judge Shepherd makes it clear that they do not want an independent judge who will follow the law and defend justice and not be a rubber stamp for their wealthy special interests.

“We call on this organization to identify its supporters who want to buy judgeships in Kentucky.”

Calls to Fair Courts America in Downers Grove, Ill., seeking comment were not immediately returned. Calls to the Fischer campaign also were not immediately returned.

Keller said, “I have been serving the citizens of Kentucky as both a judge and justice for nearly 16 years. The people of the 6th District know me. I’ve been responding to their needs, supporting their community, and most importantly, providing fair and impartial judicial rulings.

“This out-of-state organization’s goal is to control our Kentucky courts, and it appears they plan to do it by attacking good judges. An independent judiciary is the cornerstone of our democracy and the important check in the check and balance system implemented by our Founding Fathers.

“This group is dangerous for Kentucky and our country. I intend to remain committed, to the best of my ability, to defending democracy and the rule of law.”

Fair Courts America-Kentucky registered this week with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, which oversees campaign finances in the state.

The PAC was formed by chairman Doug Truax of Illinois.  Restoration America’s website said Truax is a graduate of West Point and is an Army veteran who build several successful businesses and nearly won the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Illinois.
“His organizations exist solely to get things done in the fight to preserve our way of life,” the website says.

The Shepherd campaign provided the Northern Kentucky Tribune with a 12-page strategy document of Fair Courts America called “Defending State Courts from the Radical Left:  2022 Proposal.”

It shows the group’s plan to spend $22 million in judicial races in seven states, including $1.6 million in the three races in Kentucky.

It accused some state courts of using “their power to bend, twist and even break the law solely to advance Democrat political power.” It claimed “ongoing attempts by the radical left to invalidate school choice in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina and decisions by state Supreme Court across the country of “rubber-stamping even the most draconian and nonsensical lockdowns and restrictions during the COVID panic.

Shepherd upset conservatives last year when he ruled unconstitutional a system in which donors could get tax credits for offering money students could use for private school tuition. The state Supreme Court is hearing arguments next week in an appeal of Shepherd’s decision.

In Northern Kentucky’s state Supreme Court race, Fischer has been criticized by the private, non-profit, non-partisan group, Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee of placing too much emphasis on campaigning as the Republican candidate in the non-partisan race.

Fischer filed a lawsuit this week in federal court against the Judicial Conduct Commission for allegedly violating his First Amendment rights in its investigation of the partisan nature of his campaign. He is represented by Northern Kentucky attorney Chris Wiest.

Northern Kentuckians for the Judiciary, a nonprofit dedicated to the “quality of the judiciary” and made up of attorneys and private citizens, endorsed Michelle Keller to retain the seat she has held for nine years.

The other state Supreme Court race targeted by Fair Courts America is between state Appeals court Judge Kelly Thompson Jr. and Bowling Green attorney Shawn Marie Alcott to replace Minton.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment