Arkansas Supreme Court justice Courtney Hudson reelected; chief justice race too early.

Little Rock — Reelection of Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Hudson will give Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders a fresh appointment. Hudson defeated Circuit Judge Carlton Jones for seat two on the seven-member court. Sanders appointed Justice Cody Hiland last year, and the two were running to replace him.

On Tuesday night, three justices and a former politician were running for chief justice or a November runoff. Hudson's win will leave the court's position two seat open in January. The incumbent justice ran for Hiland's seat to serve additional time on the court due to state judicial retirement laws.

Sanders appointed Hiland last year to replace Justice Robin Wynne's death vacancy. Hiland, a former state Republican Party chairman and federal prosecutor, was appointed to the seat and could not run. Hudson praised Arkansas residents for supporting Wynne and his family.

Hudson told The Associated Press Tuesday night, “I'd like continue what I've always done in providing senior leadership on the court and ensuring that our focus remains on the constitution and that the rule of law always wins the day, and being a good judge

Jones' victory would have made him the first Black justice on the court. Conservative groups have targeted Arkansas court races in recent years, and Hudson fought to restrict their commercials in 2018. These groups skipped this year's court race. Karen Baker, Barbara Webb, and Rhonda Wood are challenging former state legislator Jay Martin for chief justice. The top two candidates will face off in November if neither contender wins a majority.

Chief Justice Dan Kemp, elected in 2016, is not seeking reelection. The four are running to succeed him. One of the three sitting justices could become the first woman chief justice. Sanders cast her ballot at a Little Rock community facility Tuesday morning but did not reveal her candidate.

“I’m going to keep that one to myself so I don’t create any issues, but I’m confident we’ll have a really strong Supreme Court and excited about the future. As the state's top court prepares to hear high-profile cases, seats are up. Abortion rights proponents want a November ballot proposal to reduce a restriction on the operation that took effect when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Sanders and the state Board of Corrections are fighting over who oversees Arkansas' prison system. The court has been urged to step in. Attorney General Tim Griffin is appealing a judge's verdict against Sanders' bill that stripped the board of hiring and firing the state's top correctional official.

stay turned for development