Posted: Sept. 12, 2005


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Attorney General M. Jane Brady spent Sunday hosting her customary Family Picnic & Crab Feast, a fund raiser that is a fixture of her campaigns, but the three-term Republican had more than the office she holds on her mind.

There is a deadline Thursday for applying for the Superior Court judgeship vacated by Richard S. Gebelein, who took early retirement last month amid fanfare to join an international tribunal in Bosnia, and Brady might not mind being considered for it.

"I wouldn't rule it out," Brady said.

It was an interesting statement for her to make. Here she was, standing in a field at Iron Hill, south of Newark, at the family homestead owned first by her parents and now by one of her brothers, while her campaign collected $35 a ticket and about 50 Republicans picnicked, even though there was the possibility their party could need a new candidate.

It was especially interesting because Brady has fashioned herself as coming from Winston Churchill's "Never Give In, Never, Never, Never" school of life, and a judgeship -- if she could get it -- would mean she was sidestepping an all-but-certain clash with Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, the senator's son whom the Democrats are projecting as their candidate in 2006.

Democrats are blissful about the prospect, and Brady could be construed as ducking, particularly after she barely held onto her office with 48 percent of the vote in a three-way race in 2002. It would not be very Churchillian.

Still, judgeships do not come along every day, and Brady says it was law in the first place that attracted her to public life. "I'm in politics to get the job in the law that I love," she said.

Securing a judgeship is a thread-the-needle endeavor that can be stymied in a number of ways. Candidates apply through the Judicial Nominating Commission, a panel appointed by the governor to screen them and to recommend finalists, typically three of them.

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner selects her appointee from the finalists and sends the nomination to the 21-member Senate, where a majority vote of 11 senators is required for confirmation.

Political affiliation would not be an issue for Brady, even though she is a Republican while Minner and a majority of the senators are Democrats. The state constitution requires the courts to be balanced politically, and Gebelein held a Republican seat that must be filled by the same.

Gebelein incidentally also was a Republican attorney general. He joined the court in 1984, two years after he lost an election for a second term.

Whether Brady would be the Republican that Minner and the Senate Democrats want is a separate question. They could rebuff her, or they could decide it would be nice to have her out of the way and to have Minner appoint someone to serve the remainder of Brady's term.

The possibility of deals is endless, and there is every reason to believe that some back-channel conversations have gone on.

Glenn C. Kenton, perhaps Brady's closest adviser and a former secretary of state from 1977 to 1985, is downplaying the talk about the judgeship.

"Every time there is a seat available, her name is mentioned. I'm not sure anything is different now. She continues to do her job and work toward re-election, but I think a judgeship has always been in the back of her mind as a logical next step. It was a logical next step for Gebelein," Kenton said.

"As to the timing and this particular scenario, I would not put much stock in it," he added.

Even if there is no judgeship in the immediate future for Brady, she still has another office beside attorney general on her mind -- particularly if she gets re-elected by fending off a Biden.

"What people are asking me about is governor," Brady said.