States' Supreme Court Election Results a Mixed Bag

Judicial elections weren't a clear sweep for either party.
by | November 9, 2016

A rare relative bright spot for Democrats on election night came in state supreme court races. It was more of a mixed bag than a clear-cut triumph, but on an otherwise devastating evening, Democrats will take it.

In North Carolina, supreme court seats are officially nonpartisan, but Republicans generally lined up against incumbent justice Bob Edmunds and Democrats favored challenger Michael Morgan. Morgan ended up winning by a surprisingly large, roughly double-digit margin.

In Kansas, five supreme court justices -- Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, Carol Beier, Dan Biles, Marla Luckert and Caleb Stegall -- were retained, despite an organized, conservative-leaning campaign to oust them over controversial decisions on crime and other matters.

In two deeply red Southern states, voters chose the relatively more moderate judicial candidate. In Louisiana, that was Jimmy Genovese, and in Mississippi that meant incumbent Jim Kitchens.

Three justices targeted by pro-business interests -- Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, Charles Wiggins and Mary Yu -- were returned to the bench by voters in Washington state.

Republicans and conservatives, for their part, notched victories in Kentucky, where nonpartisan but Republican-aligned Larry VanMeter easily won an open supreme court seat; in Michigan, where incumbent justices David Viviano and Joan Larsen fended off challengers; in New Mexico, where Republican incumbent Judith Nakamura prevailed; and in Ohio, where Republicans Pat DeWine and Pat Fischer won contested races and incumbent Maureen O’Connor was re-elected unopposed.

And in Montana, Democratic-backed Dirk Sandefur defeated Republican-backed Kristen Juras for a supreme court seat.