- Associated Press - Monday, January 22, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An Arkansas Supreme Court justice who was targeted by outside groups in her failed bid to lead the court two years ago plans to seek re-election this year, an adviser said Monday, and an attorney for the state Department of Human Services said he plans to challenge her.

Justice Courtney Goodson will run in the May election for her Supreme Court seat, the only spot on the seven-member high court on the ballot this year, Campaign Adviser Keith Emis said. Goodson was not available for an interview about her election plans, Emis said.

“Justice Goodson intends to seek re-election and a further announcement will be coming soon,” Emis told The Associated Press.

Goodson lost her race for chief justice against Judge Dan Kemp in 2016 after outside groups blanketed the state with ads and mailers criticizing her. The groups and candidates for that and another high court seat spent more than $1.3 million on TV advertising, a record for the state in a judicial election. The groups accused Goodson of being too close to trial attorneys and criticized her for the court’s decision in 2014 to strike down Arkansas’ voter ID law. Goodson accused the groups of trying to beat the high court seat.

David Sterling, chief counsel for the state Department of Human Services, said late Monday afternoon he planned to challenge Goodson. Sterling declined to elaborate on his reasons for running and said he would have a formal announcement later. Sterling ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2014.

The Republican State Leadership Committee, one of the groups that targeted Goodson two years ago, said it’s too early to say whether it’ll get involved in this year’s race.

“While the RSLC’s Judicial Fairness Initiative (JFI) has a history of heavy engagement in Arkansas, it is too early for us to discuss our Arkansas playbook in the media,” David James, a spokesman for the group, said in an email.

Goodson’s re-election bid comes months after the high court faced criticism from conservatives for halting three of the eight executions Arkansas planned to carry out in April. The state ultimately put four men to death that month after a federal judge halted another execution. Goodson voted to stay the three executions, and later voted to halt another execution in November. She also wrote the majority opinion in a November ruling by the high court that Arkansas must identify the manufacturers of its execution drugs.

During his bid for AG four years ago, Sterling suggested the state should use the electric chair after executions had been halted by court challenges and drug shortages. The state’s executions last year were the first in nearly 12 years.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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