Waller tops Banks in fundraising for Supreme Court

By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press

JACKSON — Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. has raised $325,674 in campaign cash this year. The man trying to unseat him, state Rep. Earle Banks, has raised $45,734.

Judicial candidates filed their latest finance reports Wednesday, less than four weeks before the Nov. 6 election.

Waller and Banks, who both live in Jackson, are running in a district that encompasses the central one-third of the state. Although judicial candidates run without party labels, the state Republican Party has endorsed Waller and the state Democratic Party has endorsed Banks.

Waller’s donors include attorneys, insurance executives, construction companies and political action committees for health care providers, manufacturers, home builders and real estate agents.

Banks, a state lawmaker and funeral director, received contributions from attorneys, funeral home owners and other business people.

Banks said at a press forum Oct. 1 that his Supreme Court campaign would not accept donations from PACs, although he has received PAC money in past legislative races. The report he filed Wednesday shows no PAC money.

“According to my staff, they raised more from PACs than we raised from all individual contributors,” Banks said of Waller in a news release. “What began as questions regarding the financing of Justice Waller’s campaign, then control of his campaign, has now escalated to a scandal.”

Banks acknowledged Oct. 1 that it is legal for PACs to give money to Mississippi judicial candidates.

Waller campaign spokesman Morgan Baldwin said 8 percent of Waller’s donations this reporting period came from PACs, while 79 percent came from individuals. He said the rest came from businesses or law firms.

“Justice Waller has worked tirelessly to reform our court system making sure that it is fair, independent and provides access for everyone,” Baldwin said in a news release.

In an open Supreme Court race in a northern district, Richard “Flip” Phillips of Batesville has raised $244,356 and Josiah Dennis Coleman of Toccopola has raised $182,329. They’re competing to succeed Justice George Carlson of Batesville, who isn’t seeking re-election.

In a Supreme Court race in the south, Justice Mike Randolph has raised $332,239 and challenger Talmadge Braddock has raised about $25,000. Both live in Hattiesburg.

In a Court of Appeals race in the Delta and Jackson, incumbent Judge Ermea J. Russell of Flora has raised $20,720 and challenger Ceola James of Vicksburg has raised $1,045.