By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
More than $665,000 is directly fueling north Mississippi’s campaigns for the state Supreme Court.
Financial reports filed by candidates Josiah Coleman, 39, of Toccopola and Flip Phillips, 65, of Batesville show who and where that money comes from.
But funding sources outside the campaigns, particularly for Coleman, may never been known.
Within the past 10 days, the non-party race has heated up with claims and counterclaims.
Experience is a central issue between the two campaigns.
Phillips insists his 40 years as an attorney for individual plaintiff and corporate clients, ranging from local to U.S. circuit courts, provides him with the depth of experience necessary for a state Supreme Court justice.
Coleman counters that during his 13 years an attorney, chiefly in defending medical and insurance clients, he has gained valuable experience about how the courts work to be successful as a state Supreme Court justice.
Phillips’ new ads against Coleman claim he has “never tried a case.”
Coleman insists that is not true, but he did not respond to two Daily Journal inquiries to specify how many cases he’s handled himself before the state Court of Appeals or Supreme Court, or an estimate of cases he’s been lead courtroom attorney on at the local level.
A close examination of the campaign finances shows most obviously:
• Coleman leans heavily on political action committees, medical interests and “others,” who may include retired people or some whose occupations just aren’t listed.
• Phillips is calling on his many years of Mississippi legal community connections to carry his campaign.
Phillips and Coleman face off Tuesday on 33 county ballots. Each seeks to succeed Justice George Carlson of Batesville, who announced his retirement at year’s end
Final reports show Coleman’s top contributions come from 37 political action committees for 38.72 percent of his total contributions of $250,339.
Other top sectors for Coleman are 62 business contributions for 16.28 percent of his total and 69 medical contributions for 15.63 percent.
Phillips’ largest contributions total 152 from the legal sector or 52.27 percent of his $415,181 total.
His legal contributions, the reports show, come from business and defense- related lawyers and firms, like Jack Dunbar in Oxford or L.F. Sams Jr. of Tupelo, as well as well known litigators.
His other top sectors are 58 business contributions for 18.52 percent and a personal loan for 12.11 percent.
Television advertisement spending by both campaigns has topped $432,000.
Morgan Baldwin of Tupelo, Phillips’ top campaign consultant, reports their TV ad spending at $322,000.
Coleman’s campaign said Friday it’s spent $110,000 on TV and radio ads.
What’s not factored into that total is about $600,000 spent to bash Phillips by political groups directly supporting Coleman or issues they disagree with Phillips on.
While the identity of those groups is known from their commercial tag lines, they do not have to reveal who their financial supporters are.
The candidates’ financial reports, though, show where their itemized contributions are coming from.
Of Coleman’s 261 contributions, 138 or 59.79 percent totaling $149,678 are from outside the Northern district.
Of Phillips’ 263 contributions, 105 or 39.2 percent totaling $162,700 come from outside the district. This race will decide one of three Mississippi Supreme Court justices to come from the state’s northern district. Six justices from two other districts bring the court’s total to nine justices, each elected in staggered terms of eight years.