Wednesday, June 2, 2010
With the November judicial elections still months away, many candidates for circuit and county judge positions have not begun campaigning in earnest. If a recent round of campaign-finance records is any indication, though, a few candidates are wasting no time in building war chests.
In the races for Hinds County Court judge, only one candidate, Melvin Priester, Sr., reported raising any campaign funds in a May 10 filing. Priester, currently a special circuit judge in Hinds County, is running for the District 1 seat. He reported raising $20,420 between January 2009 and April 30, 2010, the bulk of which came from small donations of $200 or less.
Priester's largest single donor was Samuel Brown, a doctor affiliated with Central Mississippi OB-GYN in Jackson. Priester also received $500 from Booker T. Jones, CEO of Jackson-based job training contractor MINACT. Jackson City Attorney Pieter Teeuwissen contributed $500 to Priester's campaign. Other notable donors to his campaign include Hinds County Supervisor Doug Anderson ($200), attorney and former Jackson Mayor Dale Danks ($100), and Assistant Hinds County Attorney Sorie Tarawally ($200). As of May 10, Priester's campaign had $12,125.88 in cash on hand.
Neither of Priester's competitors for the District 1 seat, Trent Walker and Frank Farmer, reported any campaign funds in May. Walker, a former special circuit judge in Hinds County, did not file a report, while Farmer reports no cash on hand, no contributions, and $79 in expenses.
Judge Bill Skinner, who currently holds the District 3 County Court seat, reported no donations or cash on hand in his May 10 filing, but the longtime incumbent has proven in the past that he can raise money if needed. A January 2007 report for the 2006 calendar year showed Skinner raising $37,267.
In the race for Hinds County Circuit Judge in District 1, Jackson City Councilman Jeff Weill has amassed a significant lead on his two opponents, Jackson Municipal Judge Ali Shamsid Deen and Bruce Burton. Neither Shamsid Deen nor Burton reported any contributions in their May filings, while Weill reported (PDF) a whopping $77,133, with $66,017 remaining cash on hand. Weill has personally sunk $21,594 into his campaign, making him by far his largest contributor.
Other large donors include Jackson oilman William Mounger, who gave $2,500, and the Mississippi Physicians Political Action Committee, which also contributed $2,500. Weill's war chest also boasts $1,000 contributions from businessman Leland Speed, Downtown Jackson Partners President Ben Allen and engineer Hibbett Neel.
Other notable Weill donors include Entergy CEO Haley Fisackerly ($500), Hinds County Supervisor Phil Fisher ($250) and former Mayor Kane Ditto ($250).
In the only other contested Circuit Court race, Special Circuit Court Judge Bill Gowan is challenging Judge Malcolm Harrison for the District 4 seat. Gov. Haley Barbour appointed Harrison to the judgeship last year to replace retiring Judge Swan Yerger. Gowan reported raising $4,850 in his May 10 filing, with $2,027 remaining cash on hand. Gowan's funds come from only four donations: $2,500 from William Mounger, $1,000 each from Jeff and Leah Jorgerson and $250 from attorney Conner McAllister.
Harrison reported $20,675 in contributions in his May 7 filing, with $19,258 still remaining. Harrison received $500 each from Sorie Tarawally, attorney Dennis Sweet and businessman Bill Cooley.
Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr.'s political action committee donated $200 to Harrison, and City Attorney Pieter Teeuwissen pitched in $200. Harrison also received $500 from the Langston & Langston law firm, as well as $500 from Troy Stovall, former director of Jackson State University's Center for University-Based Development.
Sherri Flowers, who took over Harrison's old post as Hinds County Attorney when Harrison moved to circuit judge, also faces a special election in November. Her May 25 filing reported $1,500 cash on hand, all coming from a single donation by Assistant Hinds County Attorney Brent Hazzard.