Home State Wide State GOP plans to endorse judicial candidates, while Democratic Party does not 

State GOP plans to endorse judicial candidates, while Democratic Party does not 


The leaders of the Mississippi’s two major political parties recently offered two opposing plans for how much they plan to interact with candidates competing for one the state’s three contested races for the state Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court. 

Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Mike Hurst told Mississippi Today on the June 24 edition of Mississippi Today’s “The Other Side” podcast that the GOP will likely endorse certain candidates in the race, while Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Cheikh Taylor said on the July 1 episode of the podcast that judicial endorsements are not on the party’s radar. 

Judicial elections tend to be low-interest races, but the elections this year will take place on the same ballot as the presidential and congressional elections. If a major political party endorses a candidate, it could give them more name recognition at the ballot box.

“I know it’s a nonpartisan race, and I think there should be a clear dividing line between the campaigns for nonpartisan races and the partisan entities like the Republican Party,” Hurst said. “But at the same time, we all know that there are differences that judicial candidates hold in their opinions on how to interpret the constitution and how to interpret statutes.” 

Candidates for the Mississippi Court of Appeals and the Mississippi Supreme Court are required to run as nonpartisan, meaning they do not run in a party primary. However, political parties can still endorse candidates running for those offices. 

For a few years, state law banned parties from endorsing or donating money to nonpartisan judicial candidates. But the state GOP in 2002 filed a federal lawsuit challenging the ban. U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate struck down the ban as unconstitutional, saying it was a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. 

Taylor, who just won election to a full term as Democratic Party chairman, said the party is still in a “rebuilding phase” and has to carefully decide which races it should get involved with. 

“There are so many races to get involved in and so many ways that funding is limited,” Taylor said. “We are structuring now to broaden our base to make sure that fundraising is not an issue moving forward.” 

There are three contested judicial races this year: an open seat on the Mississippi Court of Appeals and two Mississippi Supreme Court races where incumbents face challengers. 

In the Central District race for the Supreme Court, longtime incumbent Justice Jim Kitchens, a senior member of the Court, faces a challenge from four candidates: Abby Robinson, Ceola James, Byron Carter and Jenifer Branning. In the Southern District race, incumbent Justice Dawn Beam faces a challenge from David Sullivan. 

Three people are competing for an open Court of Appeals seat: Jennifer Schloegel, Amy Lassiter St. Pe and Ian Baker. 

All candidates will appear on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. If a candidate does not receive a majority of the votes cast, the two candidates who received the most votes will advance to a runoff election on Nov. 26.

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