How Voters Voted on State Court Justices

November 8, 2012

Voters around the country for the most part stood by incumbent state Supreme Court justices, including where Republicans, business groups and others targeted the judges for defeat. However, two incumbents on Ohio’s top court lost.

Here is a recap of state court elections:


Alabama voters gave a second chance to the former Supreme Court chief justice who was ousted from office in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument. Republican Roy Moore defeated Democrat Bob Vance, a circuit judge, in Tuesday’s election for the Supreme Court seat. Moore was first elected to the chief justice job in 2000.


Three Florida Supreme Court justices have won a retention bid despite an unprecedented push by the Republican Party of Florida to oust them. Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince each led about 67 percent to 33 percent Tuesday with nearly 90 percent of the precincts reporting.

The Republican Party’s executive committee had opposed the three justices. The GOP had called them extremists. It marked the first time a Florida political party has taken a position in a retention race.

The justices’ supporters include some prominent Republicans who said the GOP was endangering judicial independence and that the three had done nothing that deserves removal.

“The very foundation of Florida’s independent judicial system was threatened in this election,” Lewis said in a statement. “I am grateful that Florida voters once again demonstrated their faith in our fair and impartial judicial system.”

Republican Gov. Rick Scott would have appointed replacements from candidates recommended by a nominating panel, also appointed by Scott.


Iowa voters retained state Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins, who faced opposition because he supported a unanimous 2009 ruling that legalized gay marriage in Iowa.

Social conservatives campaigned to oust Wiggins because of the ruling, following their success in removing three of his colleagues two years ago. Liberal groups and the Iowa State Bar Association worked to keep Wiggins on the bench.


Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott of Pikeville will return to the state’s highest court, winning a second term in a district that covers most of the state’s Appalachian region. Scott received 57 percent of the vote to 42 percent for his challenger, Appeals Court Judge Janet Stumbo. Scott had made a campaign issue out of Stumbo’s last name, questioning why she was not using her married name of Pillersdorf. The 58-year-old Stumbo was the first woman elected to the Supreme Court in 1993. She was re-elected without opposition, but was defeated by Scott in her bid for a third term.


Republicans protected their 4-3 majority on the Michigan Supreme Court with the re-election of two Republican incumbents, Justices Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra. Democrat Bridget McCormack also won a seat.

McCormack, who is best known for leading the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan law school, will be the first non-judge elected to the Supreme Court since 1986. She beat Oakland County Judge Colleen O’Brien, a Republican. The McCormack victory staved off a potential Republican sweep that would have given the GOP a 5-2 majority. Justice Marilyn Kelly, a 74-year-old Democrat who had been on the court since 1997, couldn’t run again because of age restrictions.

The court’s conservative bloc typically sticks together in civil disputes involving contracts, insurance companies, medical malpractice and auto coverage. Business groups including farmers, bankers, doctors and insurers put their campaign cash on Markman, Zahra and O’Brien, while unions and trial lawyers donated to McCormack and the rest of the Democratic slate.


Mississippi Supreme Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. won another term on the state’s highest court. Waller, chief justice since 2009, won an eight-year term that begins in January 2014 and runs until 2022. He was first elected to the Supreme Court in 1996. Before that, he worked as a lawyer in Jackson. He represents the central, or 1st District.

In other races, newcomer Josiah Coleman won a seat on the Supreme Court and Incumbent Supreme Court Justice Mike Randolph breezed to re-election.

North Carolina

Incumbent state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby beat challenger appellate Judge Sam “Jimmy” Ervin IV, grandson of the late Senate Watergate Committee chairman Sam Ervin. The supposedly nonpartisan race saw a flurry of advertising paid for by outside interests, most of it favoring Newby. Republican organizations, business and conservative groups backed Newby while the state’s Democratic party and trial lawyers supported Ervin.


Challengers unseated the Ohio Supreme Court’s lone Democrat and a Republican justice, meaning the court will have new faces but the same political makeup.

Republican Sharon Kennedy, a Butler County domestic relations judge, ended Democratic Justice Yvette McGee Brown’s bid to serve an unexpired term through 2014. Kennedy would need to run again in two years to get a full, six-year term. McGee Brown had been appointed in 2010 to fill a vacancy left when Maureen O’Connor became chief justice.

The court’s new Democrat will be William O’Neill, a retired appeals court judge from Cleveland who beat Republican Justice Robert Cupp, of Lima.

Republican Justice Terrence O’Donnell, of Cleveland, retains his seat after defeating Democratic state Sen. Mike Skindell in the third race.


No candidate garnered the necessary 50 percent of the vote in Louisiana’s Supreme Court race to fill the seat of retiring Justice Kitty Kimball. That means there will be a runoff election on Dec. 8 between Democrat John Michael Guidr and Republican Jeff Hughes.

West Virginia

A longtime West Virginia Supreme Court law clerk will become its newest justice. Voters elected Republican Allen Loughry on Tuesday. He joins Justice Robin Davis, who won re-election to the state’s only appeals court.

Loughry had chronicled West Virginia political corruption in a recent book. That research became a major theme in his court campaign. Loughry’s campaign also received public money from a pilot program created as an alternative to traditional fundraising. But the Supreme Court blocked that program from providing additional funds in a September ruling.

The two-seat Supreme Court race also featured Republican Circuit Judge John Yoder and recent State Bar President Tish Chafin, a Democrat. There are five seats on the court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Topics Florida Michigan Virginia Ohio Iowa West Virginia

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