Judge Robert Vance Jr. said he never thought about running for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court until the candidates who emerged from the primary elections veered into partisan-charged rhetoric.
Former Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was removed from office in 2003 for disobeying a court order, emerged victorious from the Republican primary, and Harry Lyon ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Moore made international headlines when he had a large monument for the Ten Commandments placed in the lobby of the state Judicial Building. After much legal wrangling, a federal court ruled the monument should be removed, but Moore refused. A state judicial panel removed him from office.
Lyon was ousted from the ticket by the state Democratic Executive Committee this summer after allegations of unethical conduct by a candidate based on disparaging comments about President Barack Obama’s policies.
Enter Vance, a Democratic circuit judge in Jefferson County.
“Judge Moore and the prior Democratic nominee were saying things that were divisive and not fitting of the office of chief justice,” he said Thursday during a campaign stop in Florence. Vance was in north Alabama, including Decatur, for several days.
Moore has made known his opposition to gay marriage and abortion in campaign speeches at churches and other venues.
“I don’t begrudge Judge Moore his comments on gay marriage, but that is not a pressing issue facing Alabama,” Vance said.
Asked his positions on gay marriage and abortion, Vance said it would be inappropriate to state his position on matters that could come before the Supreme Court. He said it is the job of the chief justice to follow the rule of law, not personal opinions.
“My approach is one of restraint. Follow the law, and put aside personal opinions,” he said.
One of the most important jobs the chief justice has, he said, is working with the Legislature and the governor to ensure the judicial system is adequately funded. In these economically difficult times, he said that role is doubly important.
In the Jefferson County circuit court there are Democratic and Republican judges, Vance said, and they all work together. Party is not an issue, he said, and that is the spirit he would bring to the Supreme Court.
Vance is receiving endorsements from Republicans as well as Democrats. Retired Supreme Court Justice Gorman Houston endorsed him recently, and this week former Republican U.S. Rep. Jack Edwards, of Point Clear, endorsed him.
Edwards said it is necessary in this race to cross party lines. He told al.com that Vance is “the only person qualified for the job.”
Polling done by Vance’s campaign shows him in a statistical dead heat with Moore. Vance said he is beginning to run advertising statewide, and it will intensify as the Nov. 6 General Election looms closer.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.