Incumbent Superior Court II Judge Kathleen “Kitty” Tighe Coriden has decided to run as a Republican when she seeks re-election in the May 6 primary.
Her decision has raised hackles on Bartholomew County Democratic leaders’ spines, and the county party’s top boss says she is searching for a challenger to seek the judgeship in the November general election.
Last time, Coriden was the Democratic candidate.
As it stands, three candidates will battle for the Republican nomination for the Bartholomew County Superior Court II seat in the primary. No Democrat has filed with the Indiana Secretary of State to run for the six-year term.
Coriden has spent eight of the past 14 years as Superior Court II judge. Six years ago — as a Democrat — she beat Republican Roderick D. McGillivray in the 2008 general election.
She downplays her change of parties.
“I have never missed an election, and I have never once pulled a straight party ticket. I have always researched and voted for the person, and one party doesn’t have a monopoly on all the good people,” 66-year-old Coriden said after filing.
Priscilla Scalf, head of the Democratic Party in Bartholomew County, said she’s disappointed in Coriden’s political maneuver.
“Judges carry the values of their party with them to the bench, such as concern for women’s rights, fairness for those less advantaged and protection for families and children,” Scalf said. “Kitty has always been outspoken in her support for those issues, and to set those values aside just to retain a lucrative office may be more difficult than she suspects.”
This May in the Republican primary, Coriden is being challenged by Greg Long, a 41-year-old deputy prosecutor in the Bartholomew County prosecutor’s office; and by Jeff Logston, who is now city attorney in Columbus in Mayor Kristen Brown’s administration.
Neither challenger is making an issue of Coriden’s party affiliation early in the campaign. Both vow to run on their legal qualifications and what each said is a calling to community service.
Coriden, who has a long history on the bench as judge and as a private attorney in Columbus, said party affiliation doesn’t play a role in how she approaches her judicial duties.
“Judges don’t make the laws. They simply apply the laws, and I apply the laws even if I don’t agree with them,” Coriden said.
Barb Hackman, chairwoman of the Bartholomew County Republican Party, said Coriden discussed the party change with her privately early last fall.
Hackman said she didn’t try to encourage or dissuade Coriden from making the move.
“We talked about the pros and cons and whether there’d be any ramifications,” Hackman said. “I told Kitty we wouldn’t oppose her ... that we’d welcome her.”
Hackman described Coriden as a qualified person who has done a good job as judge.
Scalf said she learned of Coriden’s plans a couple of months ago.
“Many of us in the Democratic Party who have devoted time and support for her over the years are disappointed in her choice,” the Democratic leader said.
The fact that no Democrat has filed to run for Superior Court II judge so far doesn’t mean there won’t be a Democratic challenger later on, Scalf said.
“I will say that there has been some interest in this office, and we may be appointing a candidate after the May primary” who would be able to run in the general election, Scalf said. “Rest assured, our party is building a future for Democratic representation in all offices, including judgeships.”
For her part, Coriden is counting on her long history in public service in the county and region.
She was appointed judge of the Bartholomew Superior Court 2 effective Jan. 1, 2000, and served for three years. She won election and returned to the office on Jan. 1, 2009, and continues to serve that term in office.
Before becoming a county judge, Coriden was a staff attorney and executive director of Legal Services of Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur, Jackson and Jennings counties, a part-time deputy prosecutor for 22 years and also practiced law with her son and husband. She has lived in Columbus since 1972 and has been involved in the United Way, Advocates for Children and American Cancer Society among various nonprofits and charitable groups.
Logston said he concluded that now is “the right time for me to run.”
He added, “I decided to seek office based upon my breadth of experience and what I can do for the community. For me, this is about service, not politics.”
The 40-year-old attorney said he’s happy in his job at City Hall but sees the judgeship as a “role where I can impact people on a daily basis. For me, that’s key.”
Logston, a Columbus native, worked 10 years as an attorney in the private law firm Kroger, Gardis & Regas in Indianapolis, where he was associated with one of that law firm’s powerful partners, Indiana Speaker of the House Brian C. Bosma.
He later decided to start his own law practice in Columbus, focusing on dispute resolution. That led to his current post in the Brown administration, which also includes the role of executive director of administration. He has an undergraduate degree in business from Indiana University and earned a law degree from the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis. He is certified as a mediator in civil and family law in
Logston did not share an opinion on Coriden’s Republican Party affiliation.
“I’ll let voters make their own decisions and draw their own conclusions,” Logston said. “I believe that all the candidates currently declared are legally qualified to do this. What I bring is a breadth of experience. I’m also a native of Columbus. I grew up in a working-class family.”
Long gets organized
Long said he decided to run for Superior Court II because he thinks his 13 years of service in the prosecutor’s office have prepared him for a larger role.
“I didn’t think about political parties, I thought I could do a better job,” Long said.
Long said he is in the process of planning fundraisers, “getting together with different people.”
Before becoming a prosecutor, Long worked in private practice, starting in 1997. He has experience in family law, estate law and criminal defense work.
Long is a graduate of Columbus North High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Franklin College in 1994 and graduated from the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis two years later.