I use a few items related to the race for chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court to bid farewell for a time. Ellen and I embark today on a trip planned before the Arkansas legislature moved the primary election up from May to March. Cancellation wasn’t possible.
The presidential primary doesn’t hold much of the excitement promised by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in our joining the Southern round of primaries. There is some passing interest in how many votes a putative native son, Mike Huckabee, can stir up in a state where he once lived and governed. If recent elections are any guide, I think Trump- and Cruz-mania are stronger lures here. It will be interesting to see if reactionary voters fostered by Republican strategy for so many years has a backlash against establishment Arkansas Republicans in a few contested legislative primary races.
The two races for Supreme Court ARE important. It appears, between the Democrat-Gazette project this week, and plenty that has gone before, that money in Supreme Court races will get a little more attention than in years past. The ad above from a legal seminar put on by candidate Courtney Goodson’s husband, John Goodson, a backer of nearly every Supreme Court justice, illustrates why he might prove to have SOME negative traction in that race. But opponent Dan Kemp’s business lobby support will deserve a close watch, too, particularly if dark money floods in on both sides.
And speaking of Kemp’s money: He has a fund-raiser in Fayetteville, Goodson’s hometown, that’s notable for the number and magnitude of Fayetteville names on the list. Some of this is lingering unhappiness on the part of many swayed by Goodson’s then-marriage to a member of the prominent Henry family in her first race for court. She divorced shortly after election and later married her current husband.
I hope for attention to the race for an open court seat between Clark Mason and Shawn Womack, a former Republican senator with a singularly poor record to be on the Supreme Court. Womack was an automatic supporter of anything the chamber of commerce wanted in the legislature. He proposed to re-criminalize homosexuality. He fought allowing gay people to adopt or be foster parents. He opposes same-sex marriage. As a circuit judge, he recused from a criminal case (in a poorly drafted letter) for lack of experience. He claimed judges had a U.S. constitutional right to a fat pay raise, even though they already were paid more than judges in many richer states. That’s Shawn Womack — gay people don’t have a right to nondiscrimination, but Arkansas judges have a constitutional right to a pay raise. Is that deserving of the title of justice?
Clark Mason filed at the last minute to oppose the Chamber of Commerce ownership of a Supreme Court seat. He’s a veteran trial lawyer, has served by appointment as a special justice and has a raft in credits in community and bar. Give him a look.
Elsewhere on the primary ballot is the special election for a quarter-cent sales tax in Pulaski County to provide a reliable ongoing source of support for Rock Region Metro, the transit company. No great city lacks good mass transit. No great transit system lacks a reliable source of support. If the Koch brothers’ billions are against it — and they are (opaquely, as usual) — I’m for it. The Kochs like subsidies to go for highways on which poor people can’t afford to drive and to pay for roads, not with user fees, but with money taken by strangling schools and other public services.
I hate to miss this —not to mention the special bond issue election for needed work at the Arkansas Arts Center. And I should mention the supremely qualified Sen. David Johnson’s race for a district court judgeship as well.
We have a long trip planned. I might check in now and then. But, in the meanwhile, aloha.