LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A second outside group that targeted an Arkansas Supreme Court justice during her unsuccessful bid to lead the court two years ago said Friday it's getting involved in her re-election campaign, spending $200,000 on television ads to back one of the two candidates trying to unseat her in this month's election.
David James, communications director for the Republican State Leadership Committee, said the group will begin running the ads this weekend in support of David Sterling, who's running against Justice Courtney Goodson. Sterling, the chief counsel for the Department of Human Services, and state Appeals Court Judge Kenneth Hixson are challenging Goodson in the May 22 non-partisan judicial election. Early voting for the election begins Monday.
The ad , which includes images of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, features a narrator complaining about the "fake news media and political insiders."
"The Arkansas Supreme Court needs David Sterling, a strong conservative, to defend Arkansas values," the ad says.
Another group, the Judicial Crisis Network, has spent more than $160,000 to run TV ads criticizing Goodson and has also sent out mailers targeting her. Unlike that ad and mailers, the RSLC spot doesn't mention Goodson. Goodson has criticized the Judicial Crisis ad, which attacks the justice over gifts from donors and a pay raise the court requested last year.
Both groups targeted Goodson's unsuccessful bid for chief justice two years ago, though the RSLC focused primarily that year on another high court race that was won by Shawn Womack, a former Republican state legislator. James did not say whether the group is sending out mailers or planned on targeting Goodson specifically. The two groups and the candidates for the 2016 Arkansas Supreme Court races spent more than $1.6 million on television advertising, a record sum for a judicial election in Arkansas.
Sterling said he did not know about the group's ads.
"The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that outside groups have a constitutional right to spend money in political campaigns and if a third party wants to get involved in this race, I just hope they only engage in honest and ethical communications," Sterling said. "I believe Arkansans deserve nothing less."
The committee, which launched its initiative focused on state court races in 2014, has been supported in the past financially by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, tobacco company Reynolds America, Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores and other major corporations.