Judicial Review

In Mississippi, judicial races are run without political party affiliations.

Northeast Mississippi voters will choose a state Court of Appeals judge on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
Depending upon where they’re registered to vote, they also will decide chancery and circuit judges in non-party, contested races.
The region’s 21 judgeships were up for grabs this year, but only seven have more than one candidate. That means 14 incumbents already know they will return to their black robes and familiar courtrooms.
The Court of Appeals race – between incumbent Donna Barnes and defense attorney Kelly Mims, both of Tupelo – may be the highest profile of the contests.
They both are seeking their first eight-year term to the court, although with a governor’s appointment and special election, Barnes has held the seat the past six years.
Who’s ahead in fundraising won’t be public until Monday, when new reports are posted, but the latest information in the July 9 reports showed Barnes well ahead of Mims with $46,475 raised and $20,707 on hand, compared with Mims’ $19,025 raised and $1,603 cash.
Both candidates have been campaigning throughout the 23-county district, making speeches and meeting voters.
All judicial candidates run without political party labels, except for county justice court judges. But they won’t be on the ballot until next year.
Three circuit court races also are drawing attention:
• District 3, Place 3 – John Gregory of Okolona, and Tom Levidiotis and David Rozier Jr., both of Oxford, trying to succeed retiring Henry Lackey of Calhoun City. Early qualifer, Kent Smith of Holly Springs, withdrew.
• District 16, Place 1 – Incumbent James T. “Jim” Kitchens of Caledonia versus William Starks of Columbus.
• District 16, Place 3 – West Point attorneys Lee S. Coleman, Bob Marshall and Nebra Porter, vying for a new judgeship.
Both Place 3 races are open, meaning there’s none of the usual advantage held by incumbents.
In District 3, Rozier reported the most money in early July, $34,255, with $29,079 in cash. Gregory reported $22,649/$12,315 and Levidiotis $12,048/$4,571.
As for the Golden Triangle race in District 16, Coleman was ahead with finances – $26,999 raised, $19,724 on hand. Marshall reported $16,0048/$13,806, substantially more than Porter’s $824 raised with $371 on hand.
Kitchens’ re-election push in District 16, Place 1, shows $7,350 raised and just a little more in cash, compared with Starks’ $14,748 raised and $3,331 left.
Many of this year’s candidates are using new electronic tools, such as Internet websites and Facebook, the social communication network.
Their sites boast their qualifications and photographs from the campaign trail.
Incumbent Chancellor Edwin Roberts Jr. of Oxford – District 18, Place 2 – is opposed by Helen Kennedy Robinson of Oxford, although neither appears to have done much aside from traditional campaigning.
Last July, Roberts showed he’s raised $10,020, with $9,379 still available, compared to Robinson’s $1,442, with about a $1,000 left over.
In Circuit District 3, Place 2, incumbent Robert W. Elliott of Ripley and his opponent, Shirley C. Byers of Holly Springs, don’t appear to be doing anything non-traditional either.
Elliott reported $4,650 raised and $3,696 available, compared with Byers’ $1,896 with $1,870 on hand in the July report.
In Circuit District 1, Place 2, incumbent Paul S. Funderburk of Tupelo appears to be taking the same tack, although his opponent, Frank Liebling of Tupelo, purchased some Internet advertising. Neither seems to have a website or Facebook presence.
This may be the most financially intriguing race, with Liebling reporting that he has $53,000 on hand, mostly from a woman with the same home address as his, while Funderburk didn’t report any money raised or spent by early July.
It’s also not unusual for some candidates to loan their campaigns personal funds to get started. Among them are Mims, Robinson, Elliott, Starks, Gregory, Coleman, Marshall and Rozier.
Exactly who’s raised the most campaign money or spent the most won’t be clearer until next week when all the candidates file their Oct. 10 period report, showing financial activity from July 1 through Sept. 20

PATSY BRUMFIELD / NEMS Daily Journal