You didn’t think it was going to be easy did you?
This is Shawnee. If there is an appointment to be made, there is bound to be some drama.
For more than four months, the Shawnee City Commission has operated with six members because of the deadlock regarding the preferred method of replacing Gary Vogel who resigned from his Ward 1 seat.
It can’t come as any surprise that the State’s Judicial Nominating Commission would have its own brand of drama when it tried to fulfill its role in filling a vacant Associate District Judge’s seat in Pottawatomie County.
The JNC forgot the No. 1 rule in politics; If you are going to be shady, you have to be smart.
Reforming the judicial system has been a big part of the Republican policy platform for several years. There has been a strong sense among GOP legislators that the JNC doesn’t actually operate in a non-partisan way. Despite a major shift to the right among the executive and legislative branches of government, the judicial arm has remained dominated by jurists whose politics would fall further to the left on the spectrum.
The recent recommendations from the JNC for the Pottawatomie County position are certainly evidence of that assertion if it isn’t proof.
Despite the fact that state law requires three names to be submitted to the governor, the JNC only submitted two names to Gov. Mary Fallin – who also happens to be a native of Pottawatomie County.
Those two names just happened to be the two Democrats that applied. The two applicants who were not selected because the commission “wasn’t comfortable with them” just happened to be Republicans.
You could believe that the JNC was truly non-partisan and the selections were merit-based. After all, political affiliation is one of the few questions candidates don’t have to answer on the 20-page application.
Maybe it was a coincidence.
Or perhaps someone on the commission staff has the same level of computer skills as my 11-year-old son and was able to do a simple search to find the applicants’ voter registration information.
Either way, it looks bad.
Now the Governor has asked the commission to restart the process. It was incredibly politically clumsy to only have two Democrats apply if the intent was to lock out the Republican applicants. If a third Democrat would have thrown a hat in the ring, the JNC could have sent three applicants to the Governor as the law requires. Instead, they willfully violated the law and cast doubt on the process and the commission.
Hopefully, the second attempt at filling the vacant spot on the bench will be more successful and less controversial. But somehow, I doubt it will be.