State Profiles Map

Alabama

Election Type: Partisan election

Alabama saw one candidate, incumbent Republican Justice Greg Shaw, run unopposed for reelection in 2014. Past Alabama Supreme Court races have been extremely expensive–Alabama led the nation in total candidate fundraising from 2000-09–but this race remained fairly quiet. The court maintained its 9-0 Republican majority.

Rank
Total Spending $41,163.43 17/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $41,163.43 17/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $0 N/A
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 0.0% N/A
TV Spending Total $0 N/A
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 99.6% 1/18

Arkansas

Election Type: Nonpartisan election

Three Supreme Court seats were up for election in Arkansas in 2014. Justice Karen Baker ran unopposed to retain her seat on the court, and Rhonda Wood ran unopposed to fill the seat of a recently retired justice. Court of Appeals Judge Robin Wynne and attorney Tim Cullen competed for the third seat in a match that saw harsh TV attack ads paid for by a special interest group, the Law Enforcement Alliance of America. This marked the first attack ad in the state since the New Politics series began, as well as the first time outside groups funded TV spending in recent history. Cullen raised over $160,000, $30,000 of which was spent on TV ads. Wynne raised and spent significantly less and won the seat.

Rank
Total Spending $522,129.26 11/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $357,569.26 10/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $164,560.00 8/8
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 31.5% 7/8
TV Spending Total $208,770.00 8/11
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 77.0% 6/18

Georgia

Election Type: Nonpartisan election

The 2014 Georgia judicial elections, held in May, were some of the earliest in the nation. Three incumbent justices–Harris Hines, Keith Blackwell, and Robert Benham–ran unopposed and raised a total of $273,000. Nearly 80 percent of these contributions came from lawyers and lobbyists.

Rank
Total Spending $273,085.70 12/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $273,085.70 12/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $0 N/A
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 0.0% N/A
TV Spending Total $0.00 N/A
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 53.3% 12/18

Idaho

Election Type: Nonpartisan election

Two Supreme Court seats were up for election in Idaho in 2014. Incumbent Justice Joel Horton defeated attorney William “Breck” Seiniger, while incumbent Justice Warren Jones ran unopposed. Jones did not fundraise, while Horton raised almost $125,000, over $23,000 of which was spent on television ads.  

Rank
Total Spending $163,370.62 15/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $163,370.62 15/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $0 N/A
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 0.0% N/A
TV Spending Total $23,060.00 11/11
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 60.7% 9/18

Illinois

Election Type: Retention election

Justice Lloyd Karmeier was up for retention in Illinois in 2014. The justice himself raised only a small amount of money as spending was dominated by two special-interest groups, the RSLC and Campaign for 2016, which spent significant sums battling over Karmeier’s retention. Ninety percent of all spending came from these two groups. Both sponsored TV ads–Campaign for 2016’s ads attacked Justice Karmeier for being a “special interest judge,” while the RSLC came to the justice’s defense with positive ads. Karmeier narrowly won reelection with 60.8 percent of the vote, barely topping the 60 percent threshold for retention, and preserving the 4-3 left-leaning majority on the court.

Rank
Total Spending $3,352,951.47 4/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $309,331.02 11/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $3,043,620.45 2/8
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 90.8% 1/8
TV Spending Total $1,820,630.00 3/11
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 95.1% 3/18

Kentucky

Election Type: Nonpartisan election

Four seats were open in Kentucky’s 2014 Supreme Court elections, though only one seat was contested. Incumbent Justices Lisabeth Hughes Abramson, Bill Cunningham, and Chief Justice John Minton Jr. ran unopposed and were reelected, while incumbent Justice Michelle Keller defeated her challenger, attorney Teresa Cunningham, with 58 percent of the vote.

Rank
Total Spending $134,169.37 16/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $134,169.37 16/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $0 N/A
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 0.0% N/A
TV Spending Total $0.00 N/A
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 57.9% 11/18

Louisiana

Election Type: Partisan election

District Judge Scott Crichton ran unopposed for the one open seat on the Louisiana Supreme Court in 2014. Although the state has seen high-spending, competitive races in the past, the 2014 election was a fairly quiet affair. Yet even with no competition, Crichton raised almost $800,000, 74 percent of which came from donations of $1,000 or more. The court maintained its 4-3 Republican majority.

Rank
Total Spending $777,111.31 9/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $777,111.31 7/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $0 N/A
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 0.0% N/A
TV Spending Total $0.00 N/A
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 74.2% 7/18

Michigan

Election Type: Partisan nomination; Nonpartisan general election

In Michigan, eight candidates vied for three seats in 2014. Democratic candidate Richard Bernstein contributed $1.8 million of his own money to his successful bid for a seat, accounting for 37 percent of total contributions in the state. Incumbent Republican Justices Brian Zahra and David Viviano also won after receiving substantial support from the Republican Party, the Farm Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, and donors from the finance, insurance, and real estate industries. The court maintained its 5-2 Republican majority.

Rank
Total Spending $9,518,353.16 1/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $4,982,887.95 1/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $4,535,465.21 1/8
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 47.7% 4/8
TV Spending Total $5,864,630.00 1/11
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 85.2% 5/18

Minnesota

Election Type: Nonpartisan election

Two incumbent justices faced competition in the 2014 Minnesota Supreme Court elections. Justice Wilhelmina Wright, the first black woman on the court, was challenged by John Hancock, a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security. This was Wright’s first election to the high court after her appointment in 2012, and she won her seat with 57 percent of the vote. Incumbent Justice David Lillehaug faced Michelle MacDonald, an attorney endorsed by the Minnesota Republican Party, and won the election with 53 percent of the vote. This was also Lillehaug’s first election since his appointment to the high court in 2013.

Rank
Total Spending $170,498.84 14/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $170,498.84 14/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $0 N/A
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 0.0% N/A
TV Spending Total $0.00 N/A
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 39.1% 17/18

Montana

Election Type: Nonpartisan election

The 2014 nonpartisan race between incumbent Justice Mike Wheat and former state Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke drew a record $350,000 in TV spending. Two national groups, Americans for Prosperity and the RSLC, sponsored ads attacking Wheat, while a group called Montanans for Liberty and Justice responded with ads critical of VanDyke. A group called Montanans for a Fair Judiciary also spent money on radio ads and mailers in support of VanDyke. Both candidates received contributions from lawyers and lobbyists, and VanDyke also received significant funding from businesses. Wheat won with 62 percent of the vote and the court maintained its left-leaning majority.

Rank
Total Spending $1,503,521.98 8/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $376,361.22 9/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $1,127,160.76 5/8
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 75.0% 2/8
TV Spending Total $353,630.00 7/11
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 1.5% 18/18

North Carolina

Election Type: Nonpartisan election

In North Carolina, four seats were up for election in 2014. Three incumbents retained their spots–Justices Mark Martin, Cheri Beasley, and Robin Hudson. The final seat went to challenger Samuel Ervin IV, who defeated incumbent Justice Robert Hunter. This election marked the first state Supreme Court election cycle since lawmakers dismantled the state’s judicial public financing system in 2013; as a result, candidate fundraising soared to nearly $4 million. All four winning candidates received significant financial support from lawyers and lobbyists. The RSLC was the biggest single source of election funds in the state, contributing $1.3 million to a local organization, Justice for All NC, which went on to run a high-profile TV ad claiming that Justice Robin Hudson was “not tough on child molesters.” Although North Carolina races are nonpartisan, the court is widely understood to lean conservative. Samuel Ervin IV’s victory narrowed the court’s conservative majority from 5-2 to 4-3.

Rank
Total Spending $6,005,983.61 2/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $3,924,277.81 2/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $2,081,705.80 3/8
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 34.7% 6/8
TV Spending Total $3,094,625.00 2/11
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 50.8% 14/18

Ohio

Election Type: Partisan primary; Nonpartisan general election

Incumbent Republican Justices Judith French and Sharon Kennedy both won their seats in Ohio’s 2014 elections. Kennedy easily won reelection against her challenger, former state representative Tom Letson, whereas French faced a closer race against Court of Common Pleas Judge John O’Donnell. Although all four candidates signed a pledge with the Ohio State Bar Association to refrain from negative campaigning, O’Donnell ran an attack ad against French. The state Republican Party came to French’s defense with an ad touting her experience. French won the race with 56 percent of the vote, maintaining the court’s 6-1 conservative majority.

Rank
Total Spending $3,261,542.12 5/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $2,539,392.12 4/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $722,150.00 7/8
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 22.1% 8/8
TV Spending Total $1,753,740.00 4/11
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 62.9% 8/18

Oregon

Election Type: Nonpartisan election

Two incumbent justices–Chief Justice Thomas Balmer and Associate Justice Martha Lee Walters–faced no opposition in 2014 and were reelected. At $7,600, Oregon had the lowest candidate fundraising of any state this cycle.

Rank
Total Spending $7,600.00 18/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $7,600.00 18/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $0 N/A
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 0.0% N/A
TV Spending Total $0 N/A
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 51.9% 13/18

Pennsylvania

Election Type: Retention election

Two Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices, Ronald Castille and Max Baer, were up for retention in 2013. (In Pennsylvania, judges are initially selected through competitive races and then stand for periodic retention elections.) Both justices received major campaign contributions from unions and attorneys. Even though the retention races drew no viable opposition, the candidates raised almost $600,000–98 percent of which came from donations of $1,000 or more. The court maintained its 3-2 Republican majority. (Two seats on the seven-member court remained vacant at the time this report went to press.)

Rank
Total Spending $597,000.83 10/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $597,000.83 8/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $0 N/A
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 0.0% N/A
TV Spending Total $205,490.00 9/11
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 97.6% 2/18

Tennessee

Election Type: Retention election

In Tennessee, Republican Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey was the driving force behind a campaign to oust three justices up for retention–Cornelia Clark, Sharon Lee, and Gary Wade–who had all been appointed by a Democratic governor. The RSLC, the Tennessee Forum, and the State Government Leadership Foundation all made independent expenditures against the justices. A group called Tennesseans for Fair Courts, funded in part by trial attorneys, came to the justices’ defense. Clark, Lee, and Wade received substantial contributions from lawyers and lobbyists, as well as from donors in the finance, insurance, and real estate industries. All three justices retained their seats, preserving the court’s 3-2 liberal-leaning majority.

Rank
Total Spending $2,515,395.59 6/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $1,152,349.75 5/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $1,363,045.84 4/8
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 54.2% 3/8
TV Spending Total $1,747,970.00 5/11
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 58.9% 10/18

Texas

Election Type: Partisan election

Four Republican incumbent justices—Nathan Hecht, Jeff Brown, Jeff Boyd, and Phil Johnson—were reelected by large margins in 2014, maintaining the court’s 9-0 Republican majority. All four candidates received major donations from the oil and gas industry, lawyers and lobbyists, and the finance sector. Total candidate contributions reached nearly $3.7 million. Only one candidate, Jeff Brown, ran TV ads.

Rank
Total Spending $3,664,247.77 3/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $3,664,247.77 3/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $0 N/A
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 0.0% N/A
TV Spending Total $187,890 10/11
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 86.2% 4/18

Washington

Election Type: Nonpartisan election

Washington saw four seats up for election in 2014. Incumbent Justices Mary Yu and Mary Fairhurst both ran unopposed, while incumbent Justices Charles Johnson and Debra Stephens both won reelection against one opponent each. Washington was one of only a few states this cycle in which a majority of campaign donations were $1,000 or less.

Rank
Total Spending $175,216.45 13/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $175,216.45 13/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $0 N/A
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 0.0% N/A
TV Spending Total $0 N/A
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 45.2% 15/18

Wisconsin

Election Type: Nonpartisan election

One seat on Wisconsin’s high court was up for election in 2013. Incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack and challenger Ed Fallone, a law professor, received the highest number of votes in the primary election, eliminating attorney Vince Megna from the race. Roggensack received substantial contributions from the Wisconsin Republican Party and businesses, while Fallone received support from unions as well as lawyers and lobbyists. Roggensack went on to win the general election with 57 percent of the vote, preserving the court’s 5-2 conservative majority.

Rank
Total Spending $1,831,677.83 7/18
Candidate Fundraising Total $997,709.74 6/18
Non-Candidate Spending Total $833,968.09 6/8
Percent Non-Candidate Spending 45.5% 5/8
TV Spending Total $734,420.00 6/11
Donations of $1,000 or More as a Percent of Total Contributions 43.1% 16/18