Judicial races: Loans bolster some campaigns

By PATSY BRUMFIELD / NEMS Daily Journal

Candidates for judge are raising money, and some have borrowed more to finance their final campaign pushes before the Nov. 2 general election, state reports show.
In several cases, they loaned their campaigns thousands of dollars.
Among them:
• Kelly Mims of Tupelo loaned his Court of Appeals campaign $11,200 since July. He also contributed $5,100 in March.
• Donna Barnes of Tupelo gave $5,000 to her re-election campaign for Court of Appeals.
• Helen K. Robinson of Oxford, a chancery candidate, gave her campaign $1,442.
• Shirley Byers of Holly Springs, a circuit judge candidate, gave her campaign $6,036.
• Robert Elliott of Ripley, seeking re-election as circuit judge, borrowed $7,500 from The People Bank of Ripley.
• John Gregory of Okolona, a circuit judge candidate, borrowed $27,000 from the Bank of Okolona.
• Tom Levidiotis, running for circuit judge, gave his campaign $25,000.
• David Rozier Jr. of Oxford, also running for circuit judge, borrowed $25,250 from BancorpSouth.
• Lee Coleman of West Point, another circuit judge candidate, borrowed $19,925. Information was not immediately available about the source of the loans.
• Bob Marshall, running for circuit judge, gave his campaign $15,000.
The latest reports, due Oct. 10 with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, show campaign contributions and spending from July 1 through Sept. 30. It’s the final report before election day.
Judicial candidates in seven contested races filed two earlier reports. Most of the region’s 21 multi-county judgeships are not contested.
The Court of Appeals race covers the widest area, geographically, across 23 counties.
Barnes paid Jackson-based Frontier Strategies Inc., operated by Quinton Dickerson, $69,258 to handle strategy, advertising and other campaign expenses since she began her push to be re-elected.
In comparison, Mims paid $18,160 to Blue Dot Group of Jackson, run by Sam Hall.
Some campaigns, even in the smaller chancery and circuit districts, are taking on new financial expenses, such as consultants.
Frank Liebling of Tupelo, seeking a circuit judgeship, reports paying $3,650 to J.L Hull Consulting/MultiMedia Inc. of Tupelo and $7,350 to Lamar Advertising of Corinth for billboards.
Political consultants also are being hired by circuit judge candidates.
Levidiotis paid $15,228 to Swineheart Consulting in Pensacola, Fla., in the past three months.
Gregory has former Fulton legislator Bill Miles’ company working for him. He’s paid him $5,000 so far.
Starkville consulting business Magnolia-Tide LLC, run by John Morgan Hughes, shows business from two circuit judge candidates, James T. “Jim” Kitchens’ re-election campaign spending $10,233 and Lee Coleman, who spent $18,865.
Coleman’s campaign report also shows $18,006 spent recently with a Columbus T-shirt shop.
Typically, judicial campaigns draw financial support from attorneys and special interest political action committees.
Barnes is the region’s top fundraiser with $81,861 since her campaign began last spring. She reports $11,050 cash as of Sept. 30.
Mims has raised $35,475 but shows just $1,066 cash.
During the previous three months, Barnes’ largest contributors are Home Builders Assn. of Miss. and Hattiesburg Clinic PAC at $2,500 each, Pamela J. Cox of Tupelo with $1,750, and Haley’s PAC at $1,500. She also had 13 contributions of $1,000 each – most from attorneys, but others were businessman David Brevard of Tupelo, Dr. Kelly Segars of Iuka, Miss. Hospital Assn. PAC, Miss. Auto Dealers PAC and the Miss. Bankers Assn. PAC.
Mims’ largest contributions since July are Shelton Social Security amp& Disability Claims Center and attorney Jason Lee Shelton of Tupelo at $1,000 each.
In District 3, Gregory’s top contributor this period is Aberdeen businessman Carl Turnage with $2,000 with $1,000 from Senatobia law firm, Lamar amp& Hannaford.
Rival Rozier’s campaign’s largest contribution since July came from Connie Walters, retired, of Philadelphia at $1,500 and $1,000 each from Greg Davis, Southaven mayor, and retired Oxford attorney Gerald Gafford.
In District 16, Kitchens’ top gifts came from Gregory C. Rader of Columbus, $2,500, and $1,000 each from Mr. and Mrs. Milton Sundbeck of West Point, Mr. and Mrs. Roger Bell of Caledonia and Cal Howard of Columbus, BankFirst president.
His opponent, William Starks, reports top gifts of $1,250 from Dan West of Caledonia, $1,500 from R. Gary Mitchell of Columbus and $1,000 each from Joe Studdard of Columbus and East Side Farms of Caledonia.
For the new District 16 seat, Coleman’s largest contributions were $2,500 each from Milton and Christy Sundbeck of West Point, $2,000 from William Cunningham of Columbus and $1,000 from Cal Howard.
Top contributors to his opponent, Bob Marshall of West Point, are Miss. Physicians PAC, $2,500, and $2,000 each from T.N. and Martha Braddock of West Point.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.