The president of the American Bar Association asked the Republican Governors Association and its chairman, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, on Friday to retract its television ad that attacks Democratic gubernatorial challenger Vincent Sheheen's criminal defense legal work.
"The Republican Governors Association ad sends a disturbing message to lawyers — that their clients’ past actions or beliefs will stain their own careers, especially if they want to serve their country in public office," ABA President James Silkenat wrote in a letter to Christie, who is a lawyer. "Voters who subsequently pass judgment on the candidate for the singular reason that he was a competent lawyer are disqualifying him from public service. On the contrary, lawyers who represent unpopular or guilty clients demonstrate the kind of courage and confidence in our legal system that characterizes the finest public servants."
The ABA does not endorse political candidates. The letter comes after the S.C. Bar launched a web site to counter perceptions in the ad that lawyers are not qualified for elected office if they represent defendants accused of crimes.
The Republic Governors Association declined Friday to remove the ad -- one of four the group has aired against the challenger for the seat held by Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley sits on the RGA's executive committee.
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Sheheen, a Camden attorney and state senator, lost to Haley by 4.5 percentage points in 2010.