Judge candidate could make history, says representation of minorities and women matters

Posted at 9:09 PM, Sep 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-30 22:33:38-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- In a historic election cycle with an unprecedented number of women running for office, Judge Christina Elmore is hoping to become the first African-American woman to serve on Michigan's 17th Circuit Court.

The 2018 midterms have seen more women running for office than ever before. Elmore says that representation of a broad scope of races and genders is important.

“People, they don’t understand the importance of like, a local judgeship race," Elmore tells FOX 17.

Elmore currently serves on the 61st District Court and is one of four candidates running for 17th Circuit Court. Her opponents are Curt Benson, Alida Bryant and Scott A. Noto.

The only other African-American to ever serve on that court was Judge John T. Letts, who was elected in 1967.

“Just having that representation would mean a lot for people that have to come into court and believing that they’re really getting a fair shake or that someone kind of knows where they’re coming from," Elmore says.

In Michigan, the 2018 midterms have already made history with an all-female Democratic ticket for statewide office. While Elmore is non-partisan, she says judges should represent the people they serve.

“I’ve had experiences, as an African-American that I know other judges that are on the bench that I’m on now, as well as on Circuit Court, they just haven’t had," Elmore says. "There’s things that they haven’t had to deal with that I’ve had to deal with.”

One of those experiences happened five years ago when one of her sons, who was 16 years old at the time, was coming home from work. Elmore says he got off at his bus stop and started walking toward their home, which was in a predominantly white area.

“He looked out of place in this neighborhood," Elmore says.

She says police officers stopped her son.

“And they’re like, ‘Well where are you going?’ And he’s like, ‘Well I’m going home. I just live up the block,'" Elmore says. "And he has a backpack, so they ask to search his backpack and I don’t think that they would have gone to those lengths if he was not an African-American young man walking through that area.”

She says they searched his backpack, found nothing and let him go on his way without incident but it left him shaken and scared, similar to experiences she recalls as a child growing up in Grand Rapids.

“I do remember walking with other black kids, going to a game, a football game and having kids throwing eggs at us and yelling racial slurs out of the windows of their cars as they’re driving by," Elmore says.

Elmore says while the city has come a long way since then, the diversity of race and gender in the courts has not.

“Women make up more than half of the population and so when you look at the court here, there’s three female judges up at the Circuit Court level out of the 14 judges up there," Elmore says. "So that means 11 are men making these decisions and they’re making these decision about things that affect women.”

The midterm election is on November 6. To see your sample ballot, click here.