Ready for football? And some ads in the race for Supreme Court chief justice? | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ready for football? And some ads in the race for Supreme Court chief justice?

Posted By on Sat, Dec 19, 2015 at 8:07 AM

click to enlarge FACEBOOKING: Dan Kemp's Facebook shots inclde a party pix with GOP state Chair Doyle Webb (right).
  • FACEBOOKING: Dan Kemp's Facebook shots inclde a party pix with GOP state Chair Doyle Webb (right).
More holiday party speculation.

I heard a reason to tune into tonight's New Orleans Bowl besides a desire to watch Arkansas State play Louisiana Tech (my grandmother's alma mater, I'm proud to say, in a day when no many women were going to college at all).

Might it be a propitious time for opening TV salvos in the race for chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court, between Courtney Goodson, currently an associate justice, and Circuit Judge Dan Kemp? The rumor is going around.

The election is March 1, barely more than two months off. Most are expecting fireworks to hold off until after the holidays, but they have to start sometime.

Early campaign reports show Kemp with an edge in money raised, about $90,000 to $50,000, but this is next to meaningless.

Everybody expects this campaign to be driven by dark money — big TV buys by shadowy groups that do not have to disclose financial underwriters. It was the pattern in the last contested race for Supreme Court as as well as last year's race for attorney general.

click to enlarge MORE FACEBOOKING: Goodson's shots include pix of this party invitation.
  • MORE FACEBOOKING: Goodson's shots include pix of this party invitation.
Kemp will enjoy support from corporate interests who think Goodson double-crossed them. She enjoyed business support in her first race then went against them on a key tort reform case. She's also viewed suspiciously because of her husband John Goodson, the wealthy lawyer who's made big money in class action cases in ways that have left a lingering odor, including this week. He's played heavily in other Supreme Court races. You could envision ads noting him because he turned up as a new husband and provider of expensive gifts including a $50,000 Tyson  yacht  trip to Italy not long after her last election when she shucked a previous husband whose liberal Democratic ties had helped her get elected. In addition to questionable ethics, anti-Goodson ads might well depict her as either a) a supporter of same-sex marriage, based on reporting that she wrote such an opinion but orchestrated the Supreme Court delay that produced a no-decision on the contentious issue or b) a wind-tester manipulator who wrote that decision as well as another decision AGAINST same-sex marriage in the behind the scenes intrigue that has brought the Supreme Court to such disfavor recently.

And what of Kemp? A tool of business maybe? But the first dirty ads most likely will find one of the hundreds of criminal cases he's heard that can be spun in an unflattering light. Goodson backers are already circulating one: A 20-year-old case in which charges were reportedly dismissed against a man accused among others, of sexually abusing children. That's all the ad will tell you if the case is highlighted, not the shoddy police work that might have caused such a dismissal. Kemp, it happens, has a tough reputation among criminal defense lawyers I know.

If not tonight, eventually this stuff will start streaming.

In the meanwhile, for some early lineup cards, here are the candidates' first financial reports, with lists of individual donors:

PS — There's another Supreme Court race for an open seat between former Republican Sen. Shawn Womack and Little Rock lawyer Clark Mason. I expect dark money ads in these races, too. Womack is the Chamber of Commerce candidate, already fully vetted by carrying all their anti-lawsuit legislation as a senator. The hate group lobby will support him, too,  for his efforts over the years to criminalize sodomy and prevent gay people from adopting children or marrying. Mason is a successful trial lawyer and should draw support from that quarter. Good ad: Womack ungrammatical letter in which he got off a criminal case because he said he wasn't qualified to hear it. Also focusing on his claim of a constitutional right to an enormous pay raise.

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