With the 2018 Kentucky primary elections on Tuesday, Insider Louisville has analyzed campaign spending data for one of those races whose ballot probably leaves voters scratching their heads in the voting booth: district judges.
What follows is an interactive civic lesson, which should reveal as much about the financial makeup of Jefferson County’s 30th district court benches, and who sits on them, as it does about Jefferson County itself.
The district court “handles juvenile matters, city and county ordinances, misdemeanors, violations, traffic offenses, probate of wills, arraignments, felony probable cause hearings, small claims involving $2,500 or less, civil cases involving $5,000 or less, voluntary and involuntary mental commitments and cases relating to domestic violence and abuse,” according to its website.
As for Jefferson County’s 30th district judges and candidates, an analysis of campaign finance records maintained by the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance (going back, in some cases, to 1998) reveals strong geographic, socioeconomic and occupational bias in terms of overall contributions.
For starters, here are contributors to 2018 district primary candidates (committed to raising more than $3,000) running in the third, fourth, sixth and ninth division primaries (Click on a dot to reveal more information):
And here’s a map depicting contributions for all district judge primary candidates as well as records for current sitting district judges seeking reelection, and limited to a range from $0-$2,000 per contribution.
With both maps, a trend appears among that sea of red dots: Even accounting for the huge concentration of contributions sourced to employer addresses located in the city’s central business district, the bulk of campaign money for district judicial candidates is a decidedly east of 9th Street affair; the tony neighborhoods of Cherokee Triangle, Crescent Hill, Indian Hills and Hurstborne, as well as Oldham County’s Prospect, overwhelmingly dominate the spread.
Conversely, an opposite trend is also evident: There is a relative dearth of judicial campaign contributions coming from west Louisville, revealing a racial and economic imbalance toward influencing electoral outcomes for district judgeships. After all, the area remains racially and economically segregated from the rest of Jefferson County.
In addition to a geographical bias, there’s also an industry bias at work, too. Of the primary candidates raising or spending more than $3,000, this chart depicts contributors’ top 100 occupations, ranked by count:
The profession of “attorney” comprises over 50 percent of listed occupations for contributors in the primary. A 2002 survey of state court judges found that over a quarter of them (26 percent) felt that campaign donations had “some influence on
The most crowded primary for an individual races is in the ninth division. Sitting Judge Andre Bergeron (a Bevin appointee, and formerly of the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office) will face off against criminal defense and immigration attorney Daniel Alvarez, private attorney and former public defender Karen Faulkner, and attorney Tanisha Hickerson. Here’s what they’ve raised so far:
Bergeron has a commanding lead, mainly a result of having lent his own campaign a substantial $60,000 sum.
Here’s a breakdown of average contribution amount for each primary candidate planning to raise and spend more than $3,000 this primary season:
And finally, here’s a look at the top 25 business entities contributing to those primary candidates (Note: The majority of contributors describing themselves as “self-employed” are, in fact, attorneys):
Correction: The previous version of this article incorrectly alluded to federal district courts. The data, and conclusions drawn from it, remain accurate ahead of Tuesday’s primary election.