Super Tuesday arrives with a state race in Arkansas, for Arkansas Supreme Court,  more important than the outcome of the presidential primaries in the life of the state.

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Say what? Arkansas will vote for Donald Trump in the fall. The ultimate Democratic nominee here is a loser. We’re screwed on that score. Our contribution to the choice of the nominee is also small in terms of Democratic delegates, though a lead here by Joe Biden would contribute to the slowing of Bernie Sanders’ momentum and a convention at which a true Democrat would likely prevail over Bernie. (Somebody this morning mentioned ranked-choice voting at the convention for a nominee, which struck me as a decent idea though I have no idea if it’s possible.)

Biden now has Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke and, most notably, Amy Klobuchar in his column. And Elizabeth Warren isn’t quitting.

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Just this morning, the thin and poorly organized Biden campaign announced more Arkansas Democrats had joined the fold — Sen. Will Bond and Reps. Andrew Collins and Tippi McCullough. Make no mistake, this is a Stop Bernie movement by Democrats who believe he’d be easy for Trump to defeat, which is certainly a signal the Trump camp has been sending. Some polling suggests otherwise. I don’t know.  I just don’t like Bernie much. I do like Elizabeth Warren.

But back to Arkansas. Today is election day for dozens of theoretically non-partisan judicial races, the most important Judge Chip Welch’s campaign for the Supreme Court seat held by retiring Justice Jo Hart. His judicial and legal experience are superior to those of challenger Barbara Webb, who holds a state patronage job and who’s run an unethical campaign. She’s wrapped herself in partisan trappings, despite an explicit prohibition of this in the judicial ethics code. The wife of the Republican Party chair, she’s advertised endorsements by Republican politicians and accepted cash from Republican Party committees. By aligning herself with the Republican governor she’s claimed a bond with someone who has many cases before the Supreme Court. Could the public expect her to be impartial? She’s also been described by a corporate lobbyist for the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce as the cheapest path to a court that will close the courthouse door to people damaged by corporate and medical bad actors.

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The Republican Party has been encouraging turnout in its primary in a transparent effort to help judicial candidates with partisan leanings. Despite a mostly meaningless GOP presidential primary, the secretary of state said early voting had been slightly heavier in the Republican primary than in the Democratic primary (not Pulaski and Washington). If, as I suspect, the Republican dark money that has poured into this race is targeting Republican primary voters, it’s bad news for Welch. Voters here have become reflexively Republican on the whole. Are some of them interested in ethics and impartiality on the bench? The president is not and he’s popular here, so …..

I’d remind Republican (and all) voters of sound advice given in a recent op-ed by Circuit Judge Grisham Phillips, from Webb’s hometown of Benton. A Republican in private life, Phillips wrote generally about judicial candidates who run partisan campaigns or use dubious negative tactics:

One can only wonder what candidates who play fast and loose with ethics during a campaign will do if they are elected. Perhaps the conduct of their campaign is indicative of what their attitude towards ethics might be. You must decide if you want to tolerate these tactics or put a stop to them with your vote.

The winner of this race will serve for eight years and decide hundreds of cases, many pitting the poor and damaged against the wealthy and powerful. Easy pick for me.

 

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