Spending on merit retention races have spiked since 2010, when justices in Iowa and Illinois faced steep opposition. In Illinois, business groups targeted Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride for voting to strike down a cap on damages in a medical malpractice case. He raised $2.5 million to fight back and won.
In Iowa, three justices took a different approach when targeted by social conservatives after they voted in a unanimous opinion to strike down the states ban on same sex marriage. The three judges chose not to raise money and lost.
Judges across the country looked at that race and learned a key lesson if they become the subject of an anti-retention campaign, fight back, said Adam Skaggs, senior counsel for the Brennan Center.
This is not the first time Floridas justices have had to mount a campaign to keep their jobs. In 1990 and 1992, Justices Leander Shaw and Rosemary Barkett were targeted by conservatives and anti-abortion groups. Both raised nearly $300,000. Barketts campaign included television and radio ads. Both were re-elected with close to 60 percent of the vote.
Lewis, Pariente and Quince have been on the ballot twice before, in 2000 and 2006, and each time received between 67 and 71 percent of the vote.
Until now, they had never had to raise money or hire campaign consultants. They each loaned themselves $2,500 in 2000 and spent it on a public relations company.
This year, they didnt want to take any chances when they saw what happened to Florida Justices Jorge Labarga and James E.C. Perry in 2010. Restore Justice, a conservative tea party-affiliated group, ran a low-budget, last minute campaign to oppose them and successfully lowered the number of votes they received.
Lewis said he has no regrets about fighting back.
If our judicial officers do not care enough about our system of justice, to inform the public as to how its structured and why, then Im not sure we deserve to be here, he said. If not us, then who?