Some of the most thoughtful advocates of judicial nominating commissions are affiliated with IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, at the University of Denver. Their report, by Malia Reddick & Rebecca Love Kourlis is on this page which says:
"A commission-based gubernatorial appointment process can offer important benefits to the state judiciary that these other methods may not. First and foremost, those who aspire to be judges need not have political connections, a campaign war chest, or the support of special interests to apply. Rather, the process can create an environment in which the selection decision focuses on candidates’ experience, character, and qualifications, motivating highly qualified candidates to apply. This, in turn, can inspire trust and confidence in the selection process and in the judiciary as a whole among members of the public and the other two branches of government. But the extent to which commission-based appointment achieves these ideals is dependent wholly upon how the commission is chosen and how it functions."
While I agree with this to some extent, I think a lot turns on how one defines "political connections." For instance, if the bar selects some members of the commission and a candidate's connections within the bar help that candidate win the support of the commission, do we call that use of "political connections"? A question for advocates of nominating commissions is whether a candidate using connections within the bar is somehow more legitimate or less "political" than using connections with democratically-elected officials.
Separately, I note that the paragraph just quoted speaks of judging in technocratic terms "experience, character, and qualifications." Omitted from this is any mention of the lawmaking role of judges, particularly state supreme court justices. Another question for advocates of nominating commissions is whether they see high court judges as important lawmakers.