Politics & Government

Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott defeats Court of Appeals Judge Janet Stumbo

Will T. Scott, left and Janet Stumbo
Will T. Scott, left and Janet Stumbo

Incumbent Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott turned back a challenge from Court of Appeals Judge Janet Stumbo in a bruising rematch of their 2004 race.

Scott defeated Stumbo by 2,122 votes eight years ago but won by a much wider margin Tuesday, after outspending Stumbo by a significant amount in the 22-county Eastern Kentucky district.

Scott, of Pike County, reported spending $290,200 of his $303,440 total in barely more than two weeks before Oct. 22, buying an avalanche of ads during a period when Stumbo said she spent just $39,549 of her total $111,360.

"We waited and then we told our story," Scott said Tuesday evening. "The people of Eastern Kentucky were informed voters, and they made their choice"

Stumbo said it was difficult to fight the kind of "media assault" of negative ads that Scott ran.

The campaign had a hard edge, with Scott painting Stumbo as liberal and soft on crime. Scott said in ads that in her last five years on the high court, Stumbo voted to reverse criminal convictions 62 percent of the time in published cases.

Stumbo, of Floyd County, was on the Supreme Court from 1993 until the end of 2004.

One of Scott's television ads showed the police mug shots of two black men and said Stumbo voted to overturn their convictions for murdering pregnant women. The ad showed photos of pregnant white women.

Scott said that in contrast, he voted to affirm convictions 62 percent of the time over the last five years.

"She was the most liberal on the court while she was there," Scott said. "I'm the conservative candidate."

Stumbo said it was improper for Scott to use liberal and conservative labels in the race, because judges should decide cases based on the facts and the law, without regard to the social ramifications.

Stumbo said her votes to overturn convictions meant sending the cases back to a lower court for further action, not dismissing the cases.

The Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee said Scott's ad with photos of the black men appeared to be designed to appeal to racial prejudice, and that his ads about Stumbo overturning convictions misrepresented the role of a judge, which is to base decisions on the law and not take sides.

Scott dismissed the criticism, saying he did not run intentionally misleading ads, and that voters needed to be informed about the candidates.

"We drew a good contrast for the voters, a truthful contrast," Scott said.