Circuit Court Judge Dan Kemp will be Arkansas' next chief justice, winning a race in which conservative groups spent a record amount of money targeting his rival.
Kemp defeated Justice Courtney Goodson in Tuesday's nonpartisan judicial election. He succeeds interim Chief Justice Howard Brill in leading the seven-member court.
Kemp has been a circuit judge representing north Arkansas' 16th Judicial District since 1987. Kemp vowed in an ad that he would be guided by "prayer, not politics." He's proposed banning justices from accepting gifts and stricter rules on when they should recuse themselves from cases.
Goodson had been targeted by two conservative groups in her bid, with one spending more than $600,000 on television ads accusing her of being beholden to trial lawyers.
In a written statement after the loss, Goodson said:
This campaign experience has been life affirming, and I am overwhelmed by the support I have received throughout this campaign. I congratulate Judge Kemp on a hard fought and successful campaign. I look forward to working with him, and my five other colleagues on the court to accomplish what so many voters asked of me throughout this campaign. I plan to continue serving them by upholding our state constitution and finally ridding Arkansas of anonymous dark money judicial campaigns.
Meanwhile a circuit judge who is also a former state lawmaker has won a seat on the state's high court.
Shawn Womack defeated Little Rock lawyer Clark Mason Tuesday and will replace retiring Justice Paul Danielson.
Womack, who was elected circuit judge in 2008, once advocated banning gays and lesbians from fostering and adopting children.
Mason has practiced law for 32 years and had never run for public office. Mason was also targeted by an outside Republican group that spent $250,000 on television ads accusing him of collecting high fees from clients.
Womack served as an appointed special justice, replacing a justice who had recused from a case related to gay marriage. The state Supreme Court ultimately dismissed the gay marriage case hours after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide. Ahead of the campaign, Mason didn't voice an opinion on the case.