A contest for Arkansas Supreme Court will become official this morning when Barbara Webb, currently serving in a Republican administration appointment at the Workers Compensation Commission and wife of Arkansas Republican Party chair Doyle Webb, will file for the seat currently held by Justice Jo Hart, who’s expected to retire.
Circuit Judge Chip Welch of Little Rock has already filed for the seat, which is by law a non-partisan position. However, Doyle Webb and the Republican Party have targeted judicial seats with partisan-flavored campaigns in recent years.
Barbara Webb once served one year by appointment of Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson to complete a circuit judge term in Saline County and thus her news release describes her as a former judge. Welch will be able to run with his title on the ballot. Webb will not, though her husband and a Republican legislator failed in an attempt at a law change in 2019 that would have allowed her to use the title on the ballot in 2020 based on her one year of past appointed service.
If recent Supreme Court races are an indicator, Webb’s campaign will be supported by dark money Republican contributions spent independently. A Republican group spent $2.6 million trying to defeat Justice Courtney Goodson last year.
Webb has already indicated in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that she’ll be happy to accept dark money support. “I really can’t control what other people might do,” she told the newspaper. She could deplore dark money and misleading, partisan attacks, particularly in judicial races. We shall see.
The race could be one of the most interesting during the March primary election, held concurrently with judicial elections. There will be no high-profile party contests, apart from some potential interest in the contested Democratic presidential primary.
UPDATE: She filed. Not long after, her husband took filing papers for the Trump presidential campaign from Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. All in the family politically.