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DGA Launches “Power to Appoint,” A New Fund to Highlight Importance of Electing Dem Govs Who Can Appoint Judges

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DGA Launches “Power to Appoint,” A New Fund to Highlight Importance of Electing Dem Govs Who Can Appoint Judges

New York Times: “The Quiet Way Democrats Hope to Expand Their Power at the State Level”  

The DGA is launching Power to Appoint – a new dedicated, no-overhead fund with a mission to uplift an important power almost every governor in America has – appointing judges. Click here to watch a new video from the DGA on how the Power to Appoint fund will work.

Sitting governors have made over 1,500 judicial appointments, including over 900 appointments from sitting Democratic governors during their terms.

As the New York Times reported, “Governors have the power to appoint judges in nearly every state. These responsibilities are set to take center stage in political campaigns this year, as the Democratic Governors Association begins a multimillion-dollar effort, called the Power to Appoint Fund, aimed at key governor’s races. The fund, with a $5 million goal, will focus especially hard on two open seats in 2024 battlegrounds.”

Judges appointed by Democratic governors uphold the rule of law and serve as an independent backstop against unconstitutional attacks on freedoms and civil rights. With the biggest battles being fought in the states, many of these courts will have final say on everything from abortion rights to voting rights.

Specifically, Power to Appoint will be a critical tool to raise the awareness and resources needed to win in states where the governor has the power to appoint judges, which is true for all 11 states with a governor’s race this year.

“With many of the biggest battles over voting rights, reproductive rights, and the future of our country shifting to the states, it has never been more important to elect Democratic governors,” said DGA Executive Director Meghan Meehan-Draper. “Whether they are enacting bold legislation, vetoing harmful laws, or making these important judicial appointments, Democratic governors are one of the last lines of defense to protect millions of Americans’ most essential freedoms and our democracy. This fund will be an essential tool for the DGA to continue our momentum by breaking even more fundraising records and winning tough races in 2024 in states where the next governor will have the power to appoint judges at the state-level.”

This is especially urgent as right-wing judges are using their majorities – including on the United States Supreme Court and on state courts across the country – to rip away rights and undermine progress. Additionally, increasing the number of Democratic-appointed state-level judges will also help rebuild the pipeline of potential federal appointees, as the Biden-Harris Administration and Democrats in Congress make a record-number of judicial appointments.

The DGA is coming off its best fundraising year in the organization’s history, raising $71.5 million across all entities in 2023, as well as the organization’s best January fundraising month to date and the successful reelection of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

Key quotes from the New York Times: 

  • “The fund, with a $5 million goal, will focus especially hard on two open seats in 2024 battlegrounds: New Hampshire, where the governor has the power to appoint state court justices, and North Carolina, which elects its justices; the next governor will appoint at least one State Supreme Court justice because of the state’s age limit rules.”

  • “‘Before we had our own abortion amendment issue here in the state of Kansas, I honestly didn’t hear much about court appointments except from attorney groups,’ Governor Kelly said in an interview. ‘But since the Dobbs decision and then our own decision here in the state of Kansas, it’s become more of a forefront issue with folks. People, I think, recognize now more than ever the impact that the courts can have on their daily lives.’”

  • “‘We do massive due diligence,’ Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota, the chair of the Democratic Governors Association, said in an interview. ‘If they’re prosecutors, we talked to opposing counsel, we talked to judges, we talked to staff that are in there about what is the demeanor of this judge? Do they have a judicial temperament? Do they have a vision of making the judiciary more inclusive and fair? Do they recognize that there are systemic racial issues in our justice system and working to try and fix those? And we don’t ask litmus-test questions.’”
  • “State courts have also proven to be a pipeline for positions on the federal bench; 20 percent of the judges that Mr. Trump appointed to the federal courts were state court justices, according to a study by the Democratic group.”
  • “‘When I was running, I theoretically understood I could be appointing judges,’ Mr. Walz said. ‘Operationally, it’ll probably be one of the most important things that I do as governor, of making sure that these are independent jurists who follow the rule of law — not supporting me, not supporting an ideology, but rule of law. And I think once you start to explain that to people, and we did it here in Minnesota, it makes a huge difference to understand who you put in the governor’s office.’”