Monday, February 29, 2016

Court of Appeals campaign violated rules on partisanship and endorsements, Blue Hog says

Posted By on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 12:09 PM

click to enlarge HAVING IT BOTH WAYS: Cody Hiland's flyers seem to suggest affiliation with both parties, although judicial candidates are forbidden from expressing any partisan affiliation. - BLUE HOG REPORT
  • BLUE HOG REPORT
  • HAVING IT BOTH WAYS: Cody Hiland's flyers seem to suggest affiliation with both parties, although judicial candidates are forbidden from expressing any partisan affiliation.

Here's another one from Matt Campbell
at Blue Hog Report: Court of Appeals candidate Cody Hiland has been sending out campaign mailers encouraging voters to support him "in the Republican Primary" ... and for other voters to support him "in the Democratic Primary."

Hiland is currently the prosecutor for the 20th judicial district, which includes Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy counties. Prosecutors, like judges, are nonpartisan positions in Arkansas. Hiland's opponent in his current race is Conway Circuit Judge Mike Murphy.

Cody Hiland has advertised his conservative credentials loudly, Campbell says. But while it's permissible for a judicial candidate to broadcast his ideological leanings, the rules of judicial conduct make it clear that partisan associations are off limits. Campbell writes:

 Hiland would have been totally fine saying “vote for Cody Hiland Tuesday, March 1st.” He would have been totally fine saying “vote for Cody Hiland Tuesday, March 1st[,] in the primary election.” He could even have said to vote for him “in the non-partisan primary,” though that wouldn’t be a particularly helpful campaign message.

The only thing he could not do was to “publicly identify himself…as a candidate of a political organization.” Meaning that these mailers appear to being two violations of Rule 4.1(A)(6).

In fact, to the extent one might argue that merely referencing the Democratic or Republican primaries does not definitively identify Hiland as a candidate of those parties, you still have the issue of Rule 4.1(A)(11), which, as we discussed in the posts about Dan Kemp, prohibits “knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the truth, mak[ing] any false or misleading statement.”If these mailers are not actual identification of Hiland as a candidate of those parties, they are almost certainly misleading statement designed to give that impression.

My first thought is that it's a little odd that Hiland would want to play both sides of the partisan field.  After all, what conservative judicial candidate would want to imply an association with the Democratic Party in 2016 Arkansas? Maybe that implies sloppiness more than actual ill intent.

Then again, although Faulkner County is quite conservative when taken as a whole, there are plenty of Democratic-leaning voters scattered in the mix, too. (Think UCA and Hendrix College influence, for one thing.) So, I'm curious to know who received the flyers implying the Democratic affiliation and who received the flyers implying the Republican affiliation. Were households sent different mailers based on data about likely party affiliation? Based on geography? (The image of the mailer asking voters for support in the "Democratic primary" was received in Clinton, Campbell says, in Van Buren County.)

Campbell also notes that Hiland has evidently endorsed a candidate for Faulkner County Sheriff, Tim Ryals, at least according to Ryals' campaign page. That violates another judicial conduct rule, Campbell says.

Rule 4.1(A)(3) specifically, unequivocally says that a judicial candidate cannot “publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for any public office.” Hiland is a judicial candidate. Tim Ryals is a candidate for public office. Hiland’s endorsement is improper on its face.

I've sent a note to Hiland's campaign asking for comment. I'll update this post if I hear back.

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