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These are stories related to the 2024 election.

NEA Political Animals host Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice candidates

The Arkansas Supreme Court Justice candidates at the NEA Political Animals meeting. From left to right: Justice Kathy Webb, Justice Rhonda Wood and Attorney Jay Martin.
Brandon Tabor
The Arkansas Supreme Court Justice candidates at the NEA Political Animals meeting. From left to right: Justice Kathy Webb, Justice Rhonda Wood and Attorney Jay Martin.

The NEA Political Animals hosted the supreme court of Arkansas’ chief justice candidates Justice Rhonda Wood, Justice Barbra Webb and Attorney Jay Martin in Jonesboro.

Justice Karen Baker, another candidate, was not in attendance due to unforeseen circumstances.

“I'm ready to go day one, it would be my honor to represent the state of Arkansas as your justice and I'm really glad to ask for your vote,” Wood said.

Wood was the first to introduce herself, which was determined by a coin toss. She said she was the most experienced there as she’s been serving for 18 years. Wood’s focus is geared towards making courts more citizen and business friendly.

Some of her judicial experience includes being on the Arkansas Supreme Court since 2015, serving 6 years as Arkansas Circuit Judge, Assistant Dean UALR Bowen School of Law, being national certified judicial educator and being appointed to the bench in 2006 by Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Webb was the next candidate to give her voting statement. One of Webb’s priorities is access to justice through technology.

“I'm honored to be running for your chief justice of Arkansas Supreme Court. I think 3 words describe me. I'm principle, I'm conservative and I'm experienced,” Webb said.

Webb is currently serving as an Arkansas Supreme Court Justice. She has over 20 years of experience, a former Chief Judge for workers’ compensation, served on Arkansas ethics commission, State Crime Lab Board, Elected Female Prosecuting Attorney in Saline County and Appointed by governors Mike Huckabee and Asa Hutchinson.

Martin gave the last of the opening statements. Martin has a similar idea that he wants to expand technology for access.

“Our current outgoing Chief Justice was not on the Supreme Court when he became Chief Justice. And I think it's good to go in with a fresh perspective. I believe in the independence of the judiciary,” Martin said.

Martin has been a practicing Attorney for 27 years. Some of his experience includes being president of a law firm for 17 years, founder of Middle School Law school, Founder of Metro Cafe’s monthly legal clinic, former State Representative and 2017 Pulaski Bar Lawyer-Citizen Award Recipient.

Martin emphasized that he did not like the divide in the country and thinks that judges should run as non-partisans. The other judges agreed with the statement.

“You have to have the facts and apply them to the law. The rule of law must be upheld,” Wood said.

Voters approved Amendment 80 which requires candidates for the role to be nonpartisan.

“It’s important that you don’t let politics infiltrate professional roles, personal opinions and biases have to be put aside when applying the law,” she said.

Wood agreed and said she would not state her political standings if anyone asked.

The candidates are running to replace retiring Chief Justice John Dan Kemp. Early voting is Feb. 20 and election day is March 5.

A 2019 graduate of Sheridan High School, Robinson graduated from A-State with a degree in multimedia journalism in December 2023. In January 2021, while working toward her degree, she was named sports editor for The Herald, A-State’s student-run newspaper.