Perdue puts end to nomination of Lopez to Georgia’s federal bench

The nomination that would have produced Georgia’s first lifetime-appointed Latino federal judge was scuttled Wednesday after Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue declined to back his appointment to the bench.

Perdue on Wednesday declined to provide a “blue slip” for Dax Lopez, a severe blow to his nomination. Each home-state senator customarily must send in the slip, signaling approval of a nominee, before he or she goes to the full Judiciary Committee.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson last week said Lopez deserved a hearing, but he has yet to ask the committee for one. But Perdue's seat on the Judiciary Committee essentially gives him veto power over Isakson if he decides to act.

Perdue said in a statement that he became “uncomfortable” with Lopez’s participation with the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials after a review of his professional and judicial record.

“I am particularly concerned with his continued participation with this organization and his public comments after he became a state judge,” Perdue said. “Unfortunately, our personal meeting, while cordial and informative, did not fully alleviate my concerns.”

Lopez, a DeKalb County State Court judge, is a Jewish Republican who is a member of the conservative Federalist Society. He was appointed to the Georgia bench by Perdue’s cousin, then-Gov. Sonny Perdue. And the counsel for Perdue’s Senate campaign, Josh Belinfante, served on the panel convened by the senators that sent Lopez’s name to the White House.

When he was tapped for the seat in July by President Barack Obama it seemed to many to be a foregone conclusion. State Republican Party counsel Anne Lewis, former state House Majority Whip Ed Lindsey and a slew of other prominent GOP attorneys signed a letter to the senators in support of Lopez in September.

But a groundswell of conservative blowback quickly slowed the momentum. The attacks center on his past membership on the board of GALEO, which supports a path to citizenship for people living in the U.S. illegally and fought tougher state laws on immigration.

Immigration is a hot-button issue for the GOP base now, with Donald Trump — who called for mass deportations and a magnificent Mexican border wall — leading the presidential primary in Georgia and nationally. Perdue, meanwhile, campaigned for his first-term win in 2014 opposing any sort of "amnesty" for immigrants here illegally.

"There would be a political price to pay for either conservative United States senator, one of them running for re-election, letting it go to the committee process with everything that's been revealed about GALEO," D.A. King, an activist who has led the charge against Lopez, said in December.

Other conservatives rallied to Lopez's side in recent weeks. Among them was Erick Erickson, the conservative talk-show host on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB, who said Lopez was the "most free-market" of all the judicial picks nationwide. He called Lopez the "best pick you could hope for from the president of the United States for Georgia."

But it wasn’t enough to surmount concerns from the GOP’s right flank. And Perdue hinted some of his Republican colleagues would have had the same fears.

“I believe similar concerns would be raised by many of my colleagues,” he said, “making Judge Lopez’s final confirmation unattainable.”