Circuit Judge John Dan Kemp, who is running for chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, distanced himself yesterday from the latest iteration of third-party attack ads that target his opponent in the race, Associate Justice Courtney Goodson.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of TV spots and direct mail, sponsored by a conservative D.C.-based “dark money” organization called the Judicial Crisis Network, have been directed towards Goodson in the weeks leading up to the state’s March 1 judicial elections. First, the group went after Goodson for her “insider connections” to trial lawyers (her husband, John Goodson, is an influential class action attorney) and questionable tendency to accept gifts. But more recently, the group has sent attack mailers that claim Goodson’s participation in an unanimous Supreme Court decision striking down Arkansas’s voter ID law in 2014 was tantamount to collusion with President Obama to push a “liberal agenda” promoting voter fraud by illegal immigrants.
Kemp said last week that he and his campaign had no prior knowledge of the Judicial Crisis Network or its interest in this election. However, he also stated that the first round of attack ads raised “what I see as legitimate questions about Ms. Goodson’s publicly disclosed acceptance of lavish gifts.”
Now, in a Facebook post addressed to his supporters on Wednesday afternoon, Kemp has responded with stronger language, expressing disapproval of the JCN’s latest approach.
“I am deeply concerned, however, with the recent involvement by outside political organizations that veer away from the important issues in this campaign and instead rely on political gamesmanship,” he wrote. “Let me be clear, I do not believe there is any place in our judiciary for this type of politics. I firmly reject it.”
The “political gamemanship” Kemp references is presumably the use of the court’s voter ID decision as a line of nakedly partisan attack (the mailer in question depicts Goodson and Obama side by side and says she acted as a “rubber stamp” for the president’s agenda by voting to invalidate the law in question).
Here’s the full statement from Judge Kemp:
To my friends and supporters all across Arkansas. As I have previously stated, my campaign had no prior knowledge of the Judicial Crisis Network’s interest in this judicial election. We have been, and continue to be, solely focused on running a positive campaign.
At the outset of this campaign, I expressed my strong concerns about a renewed focus on judicial ethics and what I see as the potentially negative influence that personal gifts – like those received by Ms Goodson – can have on the integrity of our judicial system. I believe judicial integrity is an important issue that should be vigorously defended.
I am deeply concerned, however, with the recent involvement by outside political organizations that veer away from the important issues in this campaign and instead rely on political gamesmanship.
While my opponent has promoted these outside influences and sought to make political gains from them, I have distanced myself and our campaign from them.
Let me be clear, I do not believe there is any place in our judiciary for this type of politics. I firmly reject it.
I will continue to run a campaign based on ideas that will make Arkansas’ judiciary system the best in the country.
Efforts like these detract from the real issues in this race, as well as the honor of our state’s judicial system, and are outside the bounds of what should be discussed and debated in this campaign.
I, again, support transparency of those investing money to influence the outcome of judicial races.
In closing, when elected, I will provide the leadership necessary to promote ethical campaign tactics that will not compromise the integrity of the judicial system nor the impartiality of the candidates seeking election.
Thank you for your continued support!