Wynne, Carnahan head to November runoff for seat on Arkansas Supreme Court

State Supreme Court race down to two as Sterling concedes

Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Robin Wynne (left) and District Judge Chris Carnahan will face each other in a November 2022 runoff for Position 2 on the state's high court.
Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Robin Wynne (left) and District Judge Chris Carnahan will face each other in a November 2022 runoff for Position 2 on the state's high court.

Justice Robin Wynne is headed to a November runoff against District Judge Chris Carnahan for Position 2 on the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Wynne has served as Position 2 associate justice since 2015 and faced Carnahan, of Conway, and Little Rock attorney David Sterling, but failed to receive the 50% of votes needed to avoid a runoff.

With an estimated 98% of votes counted Wednesday, unofficial vote totals were:

Wynne 202,048

Carnahan 117,162

Sterling 88,512

Kevin Niehaus, director of government affairs for Arkansas' secretary of state, said Wednesday ballots remained to be counted and that officials were working on tabulating results from Perry and Marion counties.

"The delay has nothing to do with the election machines and is a result of changes that were made to their ballots after early voting began," Niehaus said. "I believe both accidentally left a JP race off their ballots and corrected the issue."

Carnahan, 50, said he isn't surprised the race is going to a runoff.

"I was sure with three candidates in the race a runoff was likely," Carnahan said Wednesday in a message to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "I've enjoyed the process so far and I look forward to a spirited race in the focusing on my commitment to Constitutional Originalism. Before this is over I hope every voter has a chance to vote for Judge Chris Carnahan, because I stay in my lane."

Sterling, 53, is a longtime attorney in Little Rock and was running for a seat on the court for the second time after losing in a runoff to Justice Courtney Hudson in 2018. He said he plans to endorse Carnahan in the runoff.

"I want to congratulate Justice Wynne and Judge Carnahan on making the runoff, and I wish them both well in November," he said. "I would like to thank all the people who supported, encouraged, and/or voted for me. I mostly want to thank my wife of 30 years, Deeni, for all the amazing things she juggled over the last several months that allowed me to campaign across this great state. The Lord has other plans, and I am excited to see what He has in store for me."

Carnahan and Sterling reported receiving donations from the Republican Party of Arkansas.

Wynne, 69, served previously as a judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals and prior to that as a district judge in Dallas County.

Attempts to reach Wynne for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful, but leading up to Tuesday's election he said he hoped people would vote for him based on his record of serving in the courts.

Carnahan has served as the Division 1 district judge in Faulkner and Van Buren counties since Jan. 1, 2021. From Jan. 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2020, he served as Division 2 district judge after being appointed by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Prior to that, Hutchinson appointed Carnahan as circuit judge for the 20th Judicial Circuit, where he served from Jan. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2018. The 20th Judicial Circuit includes Faulkner, Searcy and Van Buren counties.

Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Karen Baker was elected to a third term Tuesday night after fighting off the challenge of Circuit Judge Gunner DeLay in the nonpartisan judicial race for Position 6.

Baker, 58, has served on the high court since defeating Circuit Judge Tim Fox and Evelyn Moorehead in a special election in 2010. Baker completed the term of Justice Annabelle Imber, who retired in 2009, and won reelection in 2014.

Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda K. Wood, 53, was unopposed and will serve another term on the highest court in the state. Wood, of Conway, has served as an associate justice in Position 7 since 2015. She was elected in 2014 without an opponent.

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