Chief justice candidates Rhonda Wood and Jay Martin filed Monday to run for the post in 2024

Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and former state Rep. Jay Martin shown in this combined photo. Wood and Martin filed Monday to run for chief justice of Arkansas.
Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and former state Rep. Jay Martin shown in this combined photo. Wood and Martin filed Monday to run for chief justice of Arkansas.

Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and attorney and former state Rep. Jay Martin filed Monday to run for chief justice of Arkansas.

So far Wood and Martin are the second and third candidates to file for chief justice, joining Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Barbara Webb, who filed last week. The chief justice post is currently held by Dan Kemp, who isn’t seeking reelection in 2024.

The other announced candidate for chief justice is Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Karen Baker, who hasn’t filed yet.

Monday is the sixth day for the filing period for state and federal offices in Arkansas. The filing period ends for state and federal offices ends Tuesday. A complete list of filings can be found at candidates.arkansas.gov.

Arkansas will hold its primary on March 5, which also is called Super Tuesday. The runoff will be April 2, and the general election will be Nov. 5.

On Monday morning, four Democratic candidates for president and a Republican candidate for president filed to run in the March 5 primary.

Asked why she believes she is the best candidate for chief justice, Wood said that “I think it is a time of great change in the judiciary and the world in general and so it matters that there is a chief justice with the right judicial experience and the right leadership experience within the judiciary.”

She said she has served on the state Supreme Court since 2015, on the state Court of Appeals from 2013-2014 and as a circuit judge from 2007-2013, and she has served in leadership roles within the three levels of judiciary. In 2006, then-Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee appointed her as a circuit judge for the 20th Judicial District. She previously was an attorney for eight years.

Wood was elected to position 7 on the state Supreme Court in 2014 and reelected to the post in 2022.

The seven justices on the Supreme Court are elected in statewide, nonpartisan elections.

Martin, who has been an attorney for about 26 years, served as a Democrat in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2003-2007 and made unsuccessful bids for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 2006 and governor in 2022.

“I think I am a fairly independent candidate,” he said Monday. “I think that’s what the other races have revealed to me. I think it is hard to line up under one banner because of the various beliefs.”

Martin, a self-described consensus builder, said he’s running for the chief justice because he wants to protect the constitution, to expand access to the courts, to make sure that rural and urban courts have the staff and resources to have safe and good courts, and use all the burgeoning technology in the court.

On Monday morning, U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Excelsior, Minn.; Cenk Uygur of Los Angeles; Frankie Lozada of Valley Stream, N.Y.; and Armando Perez-Serrato of Orange, Calif., filed to run for the Democratic nomination for president in Arkansas, while David Stuckenberg of Tampa, Fla. filed for the Republican presidential nomination in Arkansas.

Lozada said Monday that although Democratic President Joe Biden “has done great things, I think there are other better alternatives and I think folks need the reassurance that there are other candidates out here.”

The other presidential candidates who have filed in Arkansas to run for president so far include three other Democrats — Biden, Stephen Lyons of Maryland and Marianne Williamson of New Hampshire— and eight other Republicans — former President Donald Trump; former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who is also the former governor of South Carolina; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum; entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; and businessman Ryan Binkley of McKinney, Texas.

As of early Monday afternoon, the the total number of candidates for state and federal offices who have filed during the first six of the filing period to 243. That’s in addition to 78 judicial candidates who qualified by submitting a petition with a sufficient number of signatures of registered voters, according to the secretary of state’s office.

So far, 125 Republicans and 81 Democrats have filed for state and federal offices, and two independent candidates have filed for a state office, according to the secretary of state’s office. A total of 113 nonpartisan judicial candidates have filed thus far.