If ABC News were covering local elections, George Stephanopoulos might have already called the San Francisco judicial race for the incumbent, Superior Court Judge Thomas Mellon Jr. Last week, the Bar Association of San Francisco named Mellon the only qualified candidate for the position, to the chagrin of his challengers, criminal defense attorney Mary Mallen and termed-out Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, who were both deemed "not qualified."
Mellon's campaign spokesman, Jim Ross, said the assessment has helped deliver new donations, campaign volunteers, and momentum, and added that we should expect to hear more before Election Day. "I'm certain you will see the bar's rankings distributed to a large number of folks in San Francisco," he said.
Mellon's challengers, meanwhile, have tried to downplay the evaluations. Mallen conceded to the Chronicle and the legal press that she might have given the Bar Association incomplete details about herself, which might have contributed to her rating.
Sandoval, on the other hand, was more defiant. In a statement, he alleged that the Bar Association panel he met with was "stacked with downtown corporate lawyers, career prosecutors, and others who have made public statements opposing my candidacy." The association's 21-member judicial committee, however, is actually quite diverse, according to bar president Jim Donato. It includes an attorney from the Legal Aid Society and several plaintiff lawyers; almost half the members are women. "It is about as far from a downtown boys' club as it could possibly be," he said.
Sandoval referred a call about the evaluations to a Simi Valley political consultant, Marc O'Hara, who stepped up Sandoval's political attack against Mellon. O'Hara said Mellon is one of the last remaining "egregiously unqualified judges" appointed by former Republican Governor Pete Wilson, and that Mellon is "preposterously out of step" to be a San Francisco judge.
It's worth noting that the local Bar Association didn't give Mellon the top rating ("exceptionally well qualified"), or even the second-best rating ("well qualified"). Mellon said the candidate ratings were "absolutely appropriate on all counts" and he was very happy with the results. But asked if he is truly well qualified for the job, he ducked the question.
He said he would let others be the judge.