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San Diego-based group mounts effort to elect conservative judges

Assemblyman Joel Anderson, R-La Mesa, and one of his predecessors from the 77th Assembly District are among those appearing in videos for a new Chula Vista-based group that is urging conservatives to elect local judges who value “life and traditional family.”

The website, BetterCourtsNow.com, also includes testimonials from at least one person affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a group that has been in the center of political battles over gay marriage in California and around the country.

“It’s important that we unify our votes so we ensure that solid men and women of high morals, who will not legislate from the bench, are elected to office,” Anderson says in a 97-second video. Later he adds, “We are in full agreement that we need to get behind BetterCourtsNow.com.”

There are 21 videos on the page. Each is between one and 2.5 minutes long. These phrases said by Anderson repeat appear nearly verbatim in several of the other videos. . Most appear to have been recorded in December, the same month the group launched.

The group has promised to release a slate of candidates, but has not yet done so. Much of its focus seems to be on the San Diego area where it is based.

Anderson is probably the most recognizable person on the list. Other prominent people on video page include: Steve Baldwin, who held the AD 77 seat from 1995 through 2000; Ron Prentice, San Diego chairman for the Yes on 8 Campaign; Don Hamer, a prominent black pastor in San Diego; Dean Broyles, an attorney the Western Center for Law & Policy; Brian Jones, vice mayor of Santee; and Charles Li Mandri, west coast regional director of the Thomas More Law Center.

A less familiar name is Dr. Jennifer Morse, the founder and president of the Ruth Institute in San Marcos. The Institute’s website displays prominently that it is “A project of the National Organization for Marriage.” The group states that it promotes “lifelong commitment” and “big families.” It opposes unmarried couples living together and medical treatment for minors with gender confusion. The site also states that it sponsors students essay contests and “Gay marriage affects everyone” seminars.

The group filed a statement of organization with the San Diego County Registrar of voters on Jan. 12 and, as well as with the Secretary of State two days later. According to the Secretary’s office, if the group contributes only to local races, they won’t have to report any donations on the CalAccess system.

Many of the same talking points show up in several videos. Most speakers note that they are appearing as private citizens. The phrase “judicial elections are important” appears many times, and several speakers also note that local judges often rise up through the ranks to higher posts.

The site also argues that judicial elections are a pocketbook issue. Noting that four judges on the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, Ruth Institute founder Morse states, “We could have saved $40 million dollars with just one different judge.”

Hamer said the decision,Threw our state into chaos and cost conservatives like you and me $40 million dollars.”

NOM has been involved in fighting same-sex marriage in numerous states, and was widely seen as instrumental in repealing Maine’s gay marriage law last November.

The group was founded in 2007 by Maggie Gallagher, a noted gay marriage opponent who also founded the “Institute for Marriage and Public Policy (IMPP). According to the IMPP website, they are also fighting for laws allowing covenant marriages, which are more difficult to dissolve than standard legal marriages.

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