Florida’s police and firefighter unions are coming out in support of the three Florida Supreme Court justices who are up for a vote on this year’s ballot about whether they’ll keep their jobs. And the law enforcement officers are criticizing the Florida Republican Party for taking sides in what they say should be a nonpartisan issue.
The Republican Party of Florida has joined Tea Party- and conservative-backed groups in campaigning against the three justices, Peggy Quince, Barbara Pariente and Fred Lewis. But Legislative Chair of the Florida State Fraternal Order of Police, Jeff McAdams, says politics should have nothing to do with whether the judges keep their seats.
“We cannot let any political party, whether Democrat or Republican, or any other special interest group, rule our courts," he said.
One group campaigning against the judges is Florida-based Restore Justice, which has raised more than $1,000 in individual and Tea Party contributions since it formed in August. It’s running ads like this one, asking voters to imagine a world without so-called "judicial activism."
The ad says, in part: “Imagine a world where our unborn children are no longer killed; where people of all faiths can freely pray, even in school; where we don’t have to be ashamed of our heritage as Americans; where our economic and spiritual freedoms are respected, even by judges.”
James Preston, President of the Florida Fraternal Order of Police, says, every case has a winner and a loser, so people with political leanings are naturally going to be unhappy with the court’s decisions some of the time.
“If they had a ruling against them and it made them unhappy, well, that’s the way the courts are supposed to work," he said. "You can’t just go in and try to buy the court system afterwards.”
Preston, along with other law enforcement officers who happen to be Republicans, are also lamenting that their party has decided to get involved without consulting members at the local level. Nelson Cuba, who represents police officers with the Fraternal Order lodge in Jacksonville, is a member of the Duval County Republican Party Executive Committee.
"Not one time was this talked about at one of our local party meetings to discuss this: ‘Anybody agree or disagree with the party moving in that direction?’” he said.
The police association and the Florida Professional Fire Fighters are calling for Gov. Rick Scott to publicly denounce the Republican Party’s opposition campaign.
If the campaigns are successful in unseating the judges, Scott would appoint their replacements.