Lawmaker raises most money in SW Miss. Court of Appeals contest

Published 4:31 pm Friday, October 13, 2006

State Rep. Virginia Carlton of Columbia is the top fundraiser among five candidates in the only contested Mississippi Court of Appeals race this year.

Campaign finance reports filed in the secretary of state’s office this week show Carlton has raised $204,124 this year and spent $24,482, leaving $179,642 to take her through the final weeks to the Nov. 7 general election.

The second-largest campaign fund in the Appeals Court race belongs to Chancery Judge Ed Patten of Hazlehurst, who has raised $138,694 and spent $19,283, leaving $119,411.

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The reports list the money raised and spent through Tuesday of this week.

State judicial canons limit what candidates can say as they campaign.

“What you usually get is, ‘I’ll be tough on crime,’ because everybody wants that and it’s not very controversial, and ‘I’ll be fair and honest and do what the voters expect of me,’” University of Mississippi law professor Ron Rychlak said Thursday.

He said money is important because it allows candidates to build name recognition.

“Most people, unless its a neighbor or you’ve appeared in court, you have no idea about judges,” Rychlak said.

Carlton, Patten, Chancery Judge Larry Buffington of Collins, attorney Richard Grindstaff of Byram and attorney Scott Phillips of Columbia are running for an open seat on the 10-member Court of Appeals.

Judge Leslie Southwick is not seeking re-election to the seat he has held since the Court of Appeals was founded in 1994. He has been nominated to become a U.S. district judge in Jackson.

Mississippi judicial races don’t list party affiliation on ballots.

Records show:

— Buffington has raised $22,380 and spent $8,470, leaving $13,910 for the campaign’s final weeks. His single largest contribution was $2,500 from attorney Tucker Buchanan of Laurel, a former state House member. Buffington listed a separate contribution of $500 from Buchanan, but it wasn’t clear whether that’s included in the $2,500.

— Grindstaff has raised $15,102 and spent $3,482, leaving $11,620. Grindstaff gave his own campaign $13,482.

— Phillips has raised $5,530 and spent $4,609, leaving $921. His largest single contribution was $1,000 from Ida Bryan of Batesville, a victim rights coordinator.

Carlton’s largest contributions were $5,000 each from seven donors: Wade Creekmore, with Telapex Inc. of Jackson; the Mississippi Physicians Political Action Committee; the Mississippi Association of Realtors PAC; Homebuilders Association of Mississippi Build PAC; the Mississippi Associated Builders and Contractors Inc.; homemaker Jan Mounger of Jackson; and the Mississippi Manufacturers Association PAC.

Patten’s single largest contribution was $5,000 from businessman Charles L. Irby of Jackson.

If a runoff is needed in the Court of Appeals race, it will be Nov. 21.

The Appeals Court’s District 4 includes all of 13 counties and parts of two others, stretching through southwest Mississippi, as far north as part of Jackson and as far east as southern Jones County.

Five of the 10 Appeals Court seats are on the November ballot.

Appeals Judges David Chandler and Donna M. Barnes in north Mississippi, T. Kenneth Griffis in the central part of the state and David M. Ishee in the south are unopposed. Terms on the Court of Appeals are eight years.

The nine associate judges of the Court of Appeals are paid $105,050 a year, and the chief judge is paid $108,130.

Patten and Buffington are simultaneously seeking re-election to four-year terms as Chancery Court judges. They did not file campaign finance reports this week for those elections.