Eva Guzman Wins GOP Primary

Eva Guzman (left), Rose Vela
Eva Guzman (left), Rose Vela

Eva Guzman hung on to her recently secured spot on the Texas Supreme Court with a robust lead over Rose Vela, her challenger from the 13th Court of Appeals.

By the standards of judicial politics, big bucks have gone into this race. Guzman has spent more than $450,000 to stay on the bench, while Vela has spent about $245,000 (most of which she loaned herself).

Gov. Rick Perry named Guzman in October to replace Scott Brister. Vela also competed for the appointment, announcing in August that she would run for the seat whether she received the nod or not. The first Republican elected to the Corpus Christi court, where Vela has served since 2006, says she faces an "uphill battle" against her opponent: Most big contributors in judicial races will only donate to incumbent candidates, and Guzman is well-liked in her native Harris County — home to a fifth of all GOP primary voters.

The contest has received considerable media attention because of its historic nature — the first Latina on the court is facing a Latina challenger, and in a Republican primary, no less — but also because of rumors that Perry has used his clout to prop up Guzman's candidacy.

Though newly appointed judges frequently attract primary challengers their first time on the ballot, they are rarely defeated at the Supreme Court level. The most recent exception was in 2002, when Steven Wayne Smith ousted Perry appointee Xavier Rodriguez, a loss some court watchers attributed to the perils of having an exotic name in a down-ballot race, only to lose the next GOP primary to Paul Green, who currently holds the seat.

Guzman will face Tyler-based trial lawyer Blake Bailey, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary, in November.

Our full primary results are available on the 2010 elections landing page.

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