“The Quiet Way Democrats Hope to Expand Their Power at the State Level”


Locked out of power on the Supreme Court and still playing catch-up against Republicans in the federal judiciary, Democrats are hoping to gain a political advantage on a less visible but still important playing field: the state courts.

After flipping the Arizona governor’s seat from Republican to Democratic last year, Gov. Katie Hobbs has appointed 15 judges to the state’s Superior Courts. In five years leading deeply red Kansas, the Democratic governor, Laura Kelly, has named two justices to the Court of Appeals and one to the State Supreme Court.

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: 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.

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