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2 Court of Appeals races set for Mississippi ballots Tuesday

November 24, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — David McCarty and Deborah McDonald came close on Nov. 6 to winning seats of Mississippi’s Court of Appeals.

But each fell just short of majority, meaning residents in much of western Mississippi will vote Tuesday in two runoffs for the intermediate appeals court, which hears cases assigned by the state Supreme Court.

McCarty, of Jackson, will face Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weill in a high-dollar race that’s featured repeated complaints about campaign tactics to a committee that’s supposed to referee the matter in such races. They’re running in the 4th District, which includes parts of 15 counties, stretching from parts of Jackson southwest to Natchez and east to Laurel.

McDonald, a Fayette resident, will face Greenville prosecutor Eric Charles Hawkins in a race where there’s been less money spent. They’re running in the 2nd District, which stretches through 24 counties running south from Tunica to Jefferson, including parts of Jackson and running as far east as Winona.

McDonald won 48.2 percent of vote, falling fewer than 2,400 votes short of a majority, according to final returns provided by the Secretary of State. McCarty came even closer, winning 49.2 percent of the vote and falling just more than 1,200 votes short of a majority.

Winners of each race will get an eight-year term on the 10 member court. In the 4th District, Chief Judge Joe Lee is retiring after 19 years in the court, while in District 2, incumbent Tyree Irving is retiring after 20 years.

Judicial races in Mississippi are nonpartisan, but there’s a clear partisan split between Weill and McCarty. Weill was a Republican member of the Jackson City Council before becoming a circuit judge and has been endorsed by the state Republican Party. He has emphasized his experience as a trial judge.

“I am the only candidate in this race with the unique experience of serving as a judge, and I believe that all my practical experience as a criminal trial judge will provide valuable insight for those important appeals and will help the court of appeals write better, more instructive opinions,” Weill said in a statement.

McCarty points to his experience as an appellate lawyer. He’s been endorsed by some Democratic groups, but says he thinks it’s important that the race remain nonpartisan. McCarty says he’s made “a vow to treat people with respect and apply the law fairly to all.”

Their race has been a high-dollar affair. Weill has raised a total of $170,000 so far this year, including $10,000 since the Nov. 6 election, and had $21,000 on hand as of Monday. McCarty raised another $53,000 since Nov. 6 for $230,000 so far this year, and had almost $13,000 on hand as of Tuesday.

McDonald cites experience as a municipal court judge and lawyer for government agencies in southwest Mississippi. Hawkins has been Washington County prosecutor since 2007 and Greenville city prosecutor since 1999.

The 2nd District race has been a lower-dollar affair. McDonald raised $44,000 and Hawkins raised $3,100 before the general election. Neither had filed a form as of Friday showing more contributions before the runoff.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy

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