The 55 candidates running in 24 contested chancery or circuit court races in Mississippi have raised a combined $1.44 million for their campaigns. The average chancery court candidate raised just shy of $24,000 and the average circuit court candidate raised almost $28,000; but that includes outliers like four candidates who reported raising no money, and on the other end of the spectrum, circuit court candidate Robert Fant Walker who raised $214,141 - about two and a half times more than the most raised by any other candidate. In the 18 races featuring incumbents, the incumbent has outraised one or more challengers in every case except three.

The numbers are from the latest campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State due October 10 which cover fundraising and expenditures from July 1 through September 30 and includes totals year-to-date. The next reports are due October 28 and cover October 1 through October 25. The election for these nonpartisan races is November 4.

(Since this column last looked at these races, four candidates dropped out decreasing the total number of contested races and changing an incumbent challenged race into an open seat.)

Walker, a Gulfport municipal judge, is running in the open Circuit 2 Place 2 seat in Harrison, Hancock and Stone counties. His opponents, former assistant district attorney Chris Schmidt and Gulfport Councilman Myles Sharp, reported raising $80,881 and $18,270 respectively. Walker has spent $86,370 and reports $127,770 cash-on-hand. Only one other judicial candidate in the state has even raised as much as Walker has spent.
Three challengers have outraised incumbents.

In Chancery District 18 Place 1 (Marshall, Lafayette, Calhoun, Benton, Tippah) challenger Carnelia Pettis Fondren (former Vice-Chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party) has raised $17,603 to incumbent Glenn Alderson's $12,375. A third candidate in the race, Tina Duggard Scott raised $6,070.
In Circuit District 18 Place 1 (Neshoba, Leake, Scott, Newton), challenger Don Kilgore raised $66,524 to 35-year incumbent Marcus Gordon's $17,650. Kilgore is the Attorney General of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
Challenger Jim Gray in Circuit District 15 Place 1 (Lawrence, Jefferson Davis, Marion, Lamar, Pearl River) slightly outraised incumbent Tony Mozingo $9,804 to $9,550. Gray is a Picayune attorney and Mozingo is seeking a second term with previous service as a justice court judge and a municipal judge.

There are a few rematches this year.

Circuit District 4 Place 1 (Leflore, Sunflower, Washington) incumbent Richard Smith defeated George Dunbar Prewitt, Jr. in 2010 with 78 percent of the vote; Prewitt is back for another round but hasn't reported raising any money. Smith has raised $9,599.

Circuit District 7, Place 1 (Hinds) Judge Jeff Weill defeated Ali M. ShamsidDeen and Bruce Burton four years ago taking 61 percent of the vote. ShamsidDeen, a Jackson municipal judge who came in second (25 percent), is challenging Weill again and has raised $20,050. Weill reported raising $73,897.

In Chancery District 13, Place 1 (Covington, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence, Simpson, Smith) incumbent David Shoemake defeated then judge Larry Buffington four years ago after Buffington charged into a media storm by issuing improper subpoenas to county supervisors in an attempt to discover who "leaked" public information regarding his appointment of former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz as an additional youth court public defender. Ultimately, the Mississippi Judicial Performance Commission reported, "Judge Buffington admitted that he had failed to comply with the law when issuing the subpoenas, but did not care." The Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a public reprimand and assessed fines to Buffington. Buffington reported raising $7,900 in his comeback bid; Shoemake reported $12,060.

In other races of note, Representative Willie Bailey (D-Greenville) is challenging Circuit District 4, Place 4 (Leflore, Sunflower, Washington) incumbent Ashley Hines. A former Leland municipal judge, Bailey raised $9,523 while Hines posted $27,680.

Former representative now judge Lee Coleman faces a challenge in Circuit District 16, Place 3 (Clay, Oktibbeha, Lowndes, Noxubee) from Columbus attorney Monique Montgomery. Coleman raised $51,732 and Montgomery raised $2,675.

Eighteenth District Circuit Court Judge Billy Joe Landrum (Jones County) faces three challengers and a civil demand of $313,726 from the State Auditor's Office for mismanagement of public funds in his Community Services Program. The district attorney is also reviewing those allegations. That hasn't slowed Landrum's fundraising who has posted more than his opponents combined: $71,379. Challenging Landrum are former assistant district attorney J. Ronald Parrish who raised $11,100; Ellisville plaintiffs' attorney Grant Hedgepeth who posted $21,505; and former Jones County Bar Association President and cattleman Dal Williamson who raised $31,403.

The least amount of money raised in a competitive race this cycle is Chancery District 16 Place 3 (Jackson, George, Greene), an open seat featuring Pascagoula municipal judge Michael Fondren, who reported raising nothing; and, Gautier municipal judge Gary Roberts who raised $5,450. The incumbent in the race recently dropped out.
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Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.