Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson advanced to the general election Tuesday night, where she will face a conservative upstart set on unseating her from the state’s highest judicial tribunal.
Goodson set off something of a scandal when she obtained a restraining order barring local television stations from airing ads critical of her campaign from a judge with close financial ties to her family.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Goodson led two challengers with 37 percent of the vote. To prevail, a candidate must secure a majority, so Goodson will face attorney David Sterling, general counsel for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, in the November runoff. Sterling won 33 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s balloting. Judge Kenneth Hixson finished third at 28 percent and will not advance to the general election.
Sterling is supported by Washington-based conservative advocacy groups, including the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) and the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). JCN produced an ad criticizing Goodson for accepting some $50,000 in gifts from an attorney, W.H. Taylor, who occasionally argues before her court. The justice obtained a court order, known as a temporary restraining order (TRO), from Circuit Judge Doug Martin forbidding broadcast of the ad in much of the state. (RELATED: Trump Blocking Critics On Twitter Is Unconstitutional, Judge Rules)
Martin’s wife is a close business associate of Goodson’s husband, The Daily Caller News Foundation first reported. Mrs. Martin owns an equity stake in a Goodson-owned consultancy, and the pair are both listed as principals of a D.C. government relations firm. In addition, the attorney, whose conduct is featured in the ad, donated money to Martin’s 2014 campaign for the circuit court.
“The citizens of Arkansas want and deserve integrity on the state’s supreme court — Justice Goodson can’t run from her record of pay increases, favoritism and residing in a swamp of conflicts of interest,” Carrie Severino, JCN’s chief counsel, said after Tuesday’s voting.
Judge Martin has since recused himself from the case and the Goodson campaign’s request. Martin’s order has since been rescinded, though the ad remains off the air in certain markets.
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