Circuit Judge Dan Kemp has defeated Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson to become the next chief justice of Arkansas’ high court in one of the costliest campaigns in the judicial seat’s history.
Kemp, 64, of Mountain View replaces interim Chief Justice Howard Brill, who has served since the late Jim Hannah stepped down in August, citing health concerns. Hannah, 71, died in January.
The Associated Press called the race in favor of Kemp about 9:55 p.m. Polls closed at 7:30 p.m.
Kemp, who has spent 29 years as a circuit judge in Stone County, was elected in 1986. Before taking that position, he was a city judge and city attorney in Mountain View.
After his victory, Kemp said he was "gratified" and "humbled" by the support of voters across the state.
"From the beginning, I wanted to run a campaign that stressed my experience, my qualifications, and I believe that resonated with people who recognized that and appreciated that," he said.
Kemp said he now has a lot of work to do as chief justice, including fulfilling campaign promises he made to change how appellate judges are elected and ensuring that judges "won't receive any gifts or anything of personal benefit beyond the salary they receive."
The race to elect the next chief justice and associate justice was costly, breaking spending records on TV advertising, according to analysts, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette previously reported.
More than $1.3 million has been spent on local TV ads for this year’s Supreme Court races, according to the newspaper.
Goodson’s campaign had raised $267,504 from donors as of the latest filing of campaign finance records with the secretary of state’s office. Her campaign had spent $727,118 as of Feb. 20, records show.
Kemp had raised $342,149 at the time of the latest filing and had spent $177,634. Of that spending total, $110,720 went to local TV stations, according to federal records.
In comparison, $308,200 was raised during the last contested race for chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court in 2004, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
Kemp will take office in January and is expected to earn $180,000 a year during his eight-year term.
Kemp hosted a watch party Tuesday night at Cotham's In the City, while Goodson hosted a party at 1301 W. Capitol Ave. in Little Rock.
Read Wednesday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.