Judge Quits Election Over Racial Issue

NEW ORLEANS - A white judge who nearly won a state Supreme Court seat crafted to give blacks a chance of election withdrew from the runoff yesterday, saying the racially divisive campaign could permanently scar the city.

State Appellate Judge Miriam Waltzer and District Court Judge Bernette Johnson would have faced each other in a Nov. 8 runoff that became necessary after Waltzer fell 899 votes shy of winning a three-person election outright on Oct. 1.

Waltzer had defeated Johnson two years ago for a seat on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal.

Waltzer said she could have won the runoff.

"But at what expense? . . . This judicial race, though it should not be, has the potential to permanently scar this city and its people by racial division," Waltzer said. "I will not allow this to happen."

Waltzer, who has a long history of civil-rights work, had some support in the black community, but Johnson said the black majority district was created to put a black on the state's highest bench and no white should run.

The district was created to settle a lawsuit.