Group photo costs judicial candidates endorsements 

By: - October 26, 2022 3:34 pm

A photo posted on social media by SEIU Nevada features nonpartisan judicial candidates at an event for Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo.

A group photo posted on social media featuring Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo amid a sea of supporters and campaign signs, paints nonpartisan judicial candidates in the picture in a negative light, say groups who yanked their endorsements. 

Culinary Local 226 Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge announced Tuesday the union was rescinding its endorsement of Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Suzan Baucum, who Culinary had endorsed in tandem with her opponent, Rebecca Saxe for Dept. 13. 

“Joe Lombardo is a threat to workers and our values,” Pappageorge said. “He does not stand with working families in the fight against Wall Street landlords, Big Oil, Big Pharma, and greedy corporations.”  

Hispanics in Politics rescinded its endorsement of Baucum, Justice of the Peace candidate Danielle “Pieper” Chio, and Family Court Dept. A candidate Mari Parlade.

HIP also originally endorsed both Baucum and Saxe.

“Very simply, we felt Judge Baucum has served the bench well and has the experience,” Fernando Romero, president of HIP, said via email. “We felt equally respectful of Chief Deputy Public Defender Rebecca Saxe. One candidate has more than 10 years on one side of the bench, the other candidate has more than 10 exceptional years on the other side of the bench.  Hence, dual endorsement.”

The photo appeared in a post from Michelle Maese, president of SEIU Nevada, the union that represents county workers employed in Justice Court. SEIU endorsed Saxe for Dept. 13. 

It’s a little surprising, but not as surprising as the endorsements themselves sometimes,” longtime Las Vegas attorney Dayvid Figler and host of the City Cast Las Vegas podcast, said of the rescissions.  Figler says little is known about the criteria organizations use to evaluate judicial candidates for endorsement. 

“The Police Protective Association, who are very vocal in their support for certain judges, is a prime example,” he says. “What do you think the values of the Police Protective Association are when it comes to judges? Is it judges who are going to hold police accountable? Is it judges who are gonna look at police action and determine whether or not they’ve crossed the line with constitutional violation? Is it judges who are going to look at applications for search warrants and probable cause arrest warrants with a high degree of scrutiny and cynicism? Or where the judges will roll over for the police whenever they show up?” 

Culinary spokeswoman Bethany Khan says the union looks for “someone who stands with working families and fights to protect them.”

Endorsements can be more influential to voters in judicial races, which feature candidates who are largely unknown by the electorate, and are limited in what they can say.

“Their positions are not well known. And in fact, even if those candidates wanted to give their positions, rules of judicial ethics preclude too much information being out there,” observes Figler.  

“Judicial candidates attend multiple events daily, as they do every election cycle,” Tom Letizia, a campaign consultant for Baucum, Chio, and Parlade, said in a statement to the Current. “Many of my judicial candidates receive broad-based support from organizations and individuals from both sides of the aisle. These are excellent organizations, and we respect their decisions.” 

Figler says judicial candidates, buoyed by the attention to be gained via social media, are failing to “think twice or a third time” about where they appear.  

“Judicial races are nonpartisan for good reason, And while judicial philosophies may be aligned with one party over another, theoretically, it’s probably really not appropriate for judges to engage, at least under the current law, in any kind of partisan activity.” 

That includes appearing in a photo with campaign signs and a candidate running in a highly partisan race. 

“That is fairly common. It’s probably so common that the guard has been let down,” Figler says. “And I don’t think that many candidates for judicial office recognize that each event really should be evaluated on its own potential blowback.”

For the judiciary, especially one that is elected, even the appearance of impropriety is to be avoided, Figler notes.  

“I would suggest that even the appearance of partisan alignment is problematic for a judge in that they should scrupulously refrain from putting themselves in that position.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.