Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Elsa Alcala announced on Twitter that she would not seek re-election in 2018. In an accompanying statement, Alcala said the need to run statewide in a partisan election was her “primary reason” for retiring. “Although I have been fortunate in that I have repeatedly been elected or reelected by the public, I believe that the results from partisan judicial elections are too random and unreliable for me to engage in this process for a fifth time,” she said. “I have seen too many qualified judges lose their bids for election or reelection, and I have witnessed the converse situation too.”

Judge Elsa Alcala

Judge Elsa Alcala

Alcala was appointed by former Gov. Rick Perry to the high court in 2011 and won re-election in 2012, when she was unopposed in the Republican primary and faced a perennial Libertarian opponent in the general election. All six CCA positions on the ballot since then have featured contested Republican primaries. Alcala said she is the lone minority woman ever elected to the court and one of just four minority judges to serve in its history. The court has had nine members elected statewide since 1977.

Historically, races for the Court of Criminal Appeals have been low-key and largely devoid of the significant campaign cash that pours into other elections. In the 2016 cycle, the 17 CCA candidates combined to raise $441K and spend $516K in their statewide campaigns. These figures were roughly double the amount raised and spent by all CCA candidates in 2014. Despite the large jump in contributions and expenditures in 2015-16, these three statewide races attracted less in contributions than 38 individual House races, and they spent less than the candidates in 30 individual House races.

Alcala’s retirement means the court will have at least six judges who will be in their first term when it convenes in 2019. Judges David Newell, Bert Richardson and Kevin Patrick Yeary were first elected in 2014. Judges Mary Lou Keel and Scott Walker were elected this year.

The other incumbents up for re-election in 2018 are Presiding Judge Sharon Keller and Judge Barbara Hervey.