Archive for November, 2014

Chancery/circuit run-off $$$

Monday, November 24th, 2014

On Tuesday, voters return to the polls in a number of elections across the state including a run-off for chancery judge and four run-offs for circuit judge. Here is a look at the fundraising and spending for those races based on the November 18 pre-run-off campaign finance reports.

Judicial incumbents sweep but 1 run-off; 1 too close to call

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

A first look at the results from yesterday’s circuit & chancery court races shows incumbents across the state cruised to re-election.

15 incumbents won out right last night. Only two incumbents have races yet to be decided.

In Chancery District 16, Place 1, incumbent Neil Harris, Sr. trails challenger Paula Yancey by 71 votes with 570 affidavits yet to be counted and 17 ballots contingent on the voter returning with their ID, according to The Mississippi Press.

Circuit 18 Judge Billy Joe Landrum faced three challengers and finished second to Dal Williamson in a race that will head into a run-off on November 25.

Four other chancery and circuit court races will head into run-offs as well; all open seats with no incumbents:

Chancery 13-2: Mary Burnham and Gerald Martin

Circuit 2-2: Robert Fant Walker and Chris Schmidt

Circuit 3-2: Shirley Byers and Kelly Luther

Circuit 4-3: Takiyah Perkins and Carol Richard-White

55 candidates for circuit/chancery judge raise $1.8million

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

As of the latest campaign finance reports which closed out fundraising and spending through October 25, the 55 candidates running for chancery or circuit judge in Mississippi have raised collectively more than $1.8 million and spent more than $1.5 million.

No seats on the Mississippi Supreme Court are up for election this year. Three Mississippi Court of Appeals judges stand for reelection this year: Jimmy Maxwell, Kenny Griffis and Virginia Carlton. All three are unopposed. Four years ago, five seats on the Court of Appeals were up for election, all five incumbents ran and won, only two were opposed.

These are some observations on chancery and circuit court races on the ballot tomorrow.

Chancery Court Races

· Mississippi voters will elect 49 chancery judges on Tuesday; 40 are unopposed. Three incumbents are retiring creating open seat elections and six incumbents are being challenged.

· In 2014, 82 percent – or 40 / 49 – of chancery judges will be reelected without opposition; three fewer than four years ago when 88 percent – 43 / 49 – were unopposed. In 2010, there were four open seats and two incumbents faced a challenge: one won; won lost.

· This year, two of the nine competitive races include more than two candidates and if no one in those campaigns earns more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be held November 25.

District 8 (Hancock, Harrison, Stone) Place 2

Incumbent Jennifer Schloegel is seeking a second term. She defeated four opponents in 2010 with 51 percent to avoid a run-off. She faces a challenge by civil litigation attorney Stephen Benvenutti of Bay St. Louis.

Of Interest: Schloegel made headlines this year presiding over the open records lawsuit against Auditor Stacey Pickering by the Sun Herald seeking documents from the Department of Marine Resources that state and federal officials were using as part of their investigations.

District 8 (Hancock, Harrison, Stone) Place 3

Incumbent Sandy Steckler, a former state senator, faces former Biloxi city attorney Ronnie Cochran. Steckler was appointed to the bench in 2001 by Governor Ronnie Musgrove.

District 11 (Holmes, Yazoo, Madison) Place 1

Three-term Judge Janace Harvey Goree is retiring. The open seat is being sought by Jackson city prosecutor Barbara Ann Bluntson and Robert G. Clark III, a Holmes County youth court judge and Lexington municipal judge. Bluntson is the daughter-in-law of former Jackson Councilman Frank Bluntson who was criticized for allegedly using two city employees to help Barbara Ann Bluntson’s campaign during her failed run at Madison County Court Judge in 2010. Clark also serves as attorney for the town of Cruger and Holmes County Board Attorney and is the law partner and brother of state Representative Bryant Clark.

District 13 (Simpson, Smith, Covington, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence) Place 1

Judge David Shoemake faces a rematch from Larry Buffington. Shoemake defeated Buffington four years ago after the former judge got into hot water by issuing improper subpoenas to county supervisors in an attempt to discover who passed on public information to the media regarding his appointment of former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz as an additional youth court public defender. The Mississippi Judicial Performance Commission reported, “Judge Buffington admitted that he had failed to comply with the law when issuing the subpoenas, but did not care.” The Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a public reprimand and assessed fines to Buffington.

District 13 (Simpson, Smith, Covington, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence) Place 2

Incumbent Judge Joe Dale Walker resigned in May and recently plead guilty in a federal investigation connected to jury tampering and lying to the FBI. Collins attorney Mary K. Burnham; Mississippi Department of Human Services attorney Deborah Kennedy; and Gerald Martin of Taylorsville who has served there as Board Attorney, are running for this open seat.

District 16 (Jackson, George, Greene) Place 1

Incumbent Neil Harris, Sr. is opposed by Jackson County Board of Supervisors Attorney Paula S. Yancey. Last year, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a public reprimand and $2500 fine for Harris for violating the due process rights of three people he charged with contempt. Yancey has served as Jackson County’s Board Attorney and formerly as county administrator.

District 16 (Jackson, George, Greene) Place 3

Incumbent Chuck Bordis, IV withdrew from this election creating an open seat between Michael Fondren and Gary Roberts. Fondren is an attorney in Pascagoula and Roberts is a Gautier city judge.

District 18 (Lafayette, Marshall, Benton, Tippah, Calhoun) Place 1

Long-time Judge Glenn Alderson faces Carnelia Pettis Fondren, former Vice-Chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party; and Tina Duggard Scott, who won with 54 percent a special election for Calhoun County Attorney in 2010.

District 18 (Lafayette, Marshall, Benton, Tippah, Calhoun) Place 2

Judge Robert Whitwell faces Helen Kennedy Robinson. Whitwell, a former US Attorney, was appointed by Governor Phil Bryant last year. Robinson lost a challenge to Chancery Judge Edwin Roberts in 2010 with 31 percent of the vote.

Circuit Court Races

· Mississippi voters will elect 53 circuit court judges on Tuesday. Thirty-eight incumbents are running unopposed, three incumbents are retiring leaving open seats and twelve incumbents are being challenged.

· In 2014, 72 percent – or 38 / 53 - of circuit court judges will be reelected without opposition; two more than four years ago when 68 percent – 36 / 53 – were unopposed. In 2010, only two of the ten incumbents challenged for reelection lost.

· This year, four of the fifteen competitive races include more than two candidates and if no one in those campaigns earns more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be held November 25.


District 3, Place 2

Incumbent Judge Robert Elliott, elected in 2006, is retiring. Seeking to replace him are Shirley C. Byers, a former circuit judge in Greenville who lost a run-off to Elliott in 2006 with 33 percent of the vote; Holly Springs city attorney and prosecutor Kizer Jones; and Kelly Luther who has served 18 years as assistant district attorney.

District 2, Place 2

Incumbent John C. Gargiulo was first appointed to the bench by Governor Haley Barbour in 2009 and was unopposed for reelection in 2010. He had qualified to run for reelection but withdrew when he was chosen as a U.S. magistrate judge for Mississippi’s Southern District. Seeking to replace him are Gulfport Municipal Judge Fant Walker; Chris Schmidt, who served for fifteen years as assistant district attorney, and Gulfport Councilman Myles Sharp. Walker has raised more than $215,000 for this campaign; dwarfing any other judicial candidate across the state this cycle. Walker’s father – Judge Robert H. Walker – is himself a former circuit judge turned federal magistrate (and nephew of former Mississippi Chief Justice Harry Walker).

District 4, Place3

Incumbent Judge Betty Sanders is retiring after five terms. Running for her seat are Leflore County Justice Court Judge James Littleton, assistant district attorney Takiyah Perkins and Sunflower County Public Defender Carol White-Richard.


District 4, Place 1

Incumbent Richard Smith defeated George Dunbar Prewitt, Jr. in 2010 with 78 percent of the vote; Prewitt is back for another round.

District 7, Place 1

Incumbent Judge Jeff Weill defeated Ali M. ShamsidDeen and Bruce Burton four years ago taking 61 percent of the vote. ShamsidDeen, who came in second (25 percent), is challenging Weill again.

Of Interest: The Associated Press reports: “The Special Committee on Judicial Election Campaign Intervention released two statements Friday criticizing Ali ShamsidDeen. The panel said ShamsidDeen’s advertising is misleading voters into believing he’s already a circuit judge. The committee also criticized a leaflet urging voters to support ShamsidDeen and [Travis] Childers. It was put out by South Forward IE PAC, an independent group that spends money to help Democrats in the South.”


District 1, Place 2

Three-term incumbent Paul. S. Funderburk is being challenged by Mantachie attorney Dennis H. Farris, Sr.

District 4, Place 4

Representative Willie Bailey (D-Greenville; District 49) is challenging District 4, Place 4 incumbent Ashley Hines. Bailey formerly served as city judge in Leland. If Bailey wins, it will necessitate a special legislative election.

District 8, Place 1

Judge Marcus Gordon, a 35-year incumbent, is being challenged by Don Kilgore, Attorney General for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Kilgore has called this position his lifelong ambition and criticized Gordon for his courtroom demeanor. Kilgore has promised to institute drug courts. Kilgore’s son, Joey Kilgore, is unopposed for reelection to his second term as chancery court judge.

District 9, Place 2

Judge Jim Chaney, appointed by Governor Barbour in 2009 and unopposed for reelection in 2010, is being challenged by bankruptcy attorney Eddie Woods of Vicksburg.

District 11, Place 3

Incumbent Charles E. Webster is being challenged by Cleveland attorney Chaka D. Smith.

District 12

Judge Bob Helfrich faces opponent Chad Shook, a Hattiesburg attorney.

District 13

Judge Eddie Bowen, a former district attorney, is being challenged by Reggie Blackledge, a former municipal prosecutor, public defender, municipal judge and Covington County Justice Court Judge. Bowen grabbed headlines in 2012 when he ruled Mississippi’s $1 million cap on noneconomic damages, a major provision in the state’s comprehensive tort reform, was unconstitutional.

District 15, Place 1

Judge Tony Mozingo seeks reelection to a second term against Picayune attorney Jim Gray.

District 16, Place 3

Judge Lee Coleman, formerly of the Mississippi House of Representatives, faces a challenge from Columbus attorney Monique Montgomery. The Columbus Dispatch story about tax liens against Montgomery is not good, but her response to the questions by the reporter were even worse. More on the race from the Dispatch here.

District 18

Judge Billy Joe Landrum faces three challengers: former assistant district attorney J. Ronald Parrish; Ellisville plaintiffs’ attorney Grant Hedgepeth; and former Jones County Bar Association President and cattleman Dal Williamson. Landrum is under investigation by the State Auditor’s Office which recently made a civil demand of $313K for misuse of public funds. The District Attorney is reviewing allegations to see if criminal charges are merited. Landrum’s pro-plaintiff rulings put his district on the Judicial Hellhole Watch List by the American Tort Reform Association.

County Court Judges

· 21 counties in Mississippi have a county court system with a total of 30 judges. I haven’t looked closely at these races.

I haven’t been tracking county court judge races but one in Hinds County of interest is to replace retiring incumbent Judge Houston Patton. There are six candidates in the race: Kimberly Campbell; Henry Clay; Bridget Clayton; LaRita Cooper-Stokes; Bill Walker; Bruce Burton. Campbell currently serves as House District 72 Representative and if she wins it will necessitate a special election for the legislature. Cooper-Stokes won a special election to replace her husband Kenny Stokes on the Jackson City Council when he won a seat on the Hinds County Board of Supervisors. If she wins it would necessitate another special election for Jackson City Council in Ward 3. Expect a run-off on November 25.

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