By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
Oxford attorney Josiah Coleman swapped his second wedding anniversary dinner Tuesday night for a party hailing his election to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Coleman led the two-man race with 58 percent of the vote over Batesville attorney Richard “Flip” Phillips.
“A lot of people made this happen,” Coleman said late Tuesday night. “When we started, I don’t think anybody knew me, but we won a tough, well-fought race with the help of so many around our state.”
Coleman and Phillips, 65, faced off to succeed Justice George Carlson of Batesville, who announced his retirement when his term ends this year.
The new justice will take office Jan. 7 for an eight-year term.
Coleman and his wife, Ashleigh, live in a renovated country house in Toccopola with their daughter, Merrimac. He’s been an attorney for 13 years.
He and Phillips waged a spirited campaign.
Support, chiefly financial, was split along Republican and Democratic ideological lines even though the race technically was nonpartisan.
In Mississippi, nearly all judicial candidates are required to run without political party labels.
But that doesn’t stop endorsements and financial support from party regulars.
Coleman had the backing of pro-business and pro-medical political action committees based in Jackson, as well as the state GOP.
Phillips drew his main support from local business leaders and established attorneys and firms across the region.
Coleman’s friends called Phillips “a trial lawyer,” while Phillips’ campaign insisted Coleman lacked the legal experience to serve on the state’s highest appeals court.
Where Coleman gained his election edge wasn’t clear by late election night without complete Associated Press totals but he maintained a solid lead throughout the night.
Mississippi’s Supreme Court has nine justices elected three each from north, central and south districts to serve staggered terms.
In two other races, incumbent Justice Michael Randolph won re-election over Talmadge Braddock in the southern district and incumbent Chief Justice William Waller Jr. was leading challenger Earle Banks in the central district.
Incumbent Justice Leslie King was re-elected without opposition in the central district.