The Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish endorsed Wednesday two of the party’s five candidates for the District 5 seat on the Louisiana Supreme Court.
District Judge Tim Kelley and Circuit Judge Toni Higginbotham, both of Baton Rouge, received the endorsement over three fellow Republicans.
“We liked all five of them,” said Woody Jenkins, parish chairman for the Republican Party. “But there was concern by all members of the parish executive committee that it is mathematically possible for both Democrats to make it into the runoff.”
That forced the committee to throw the party’s resources behind only Higginbotham and Kelley, Jenkins said.
The parish Republicans also endorsed Circuit Judge J. Michael McDonald for re-election to the 2nd District, Subdistrict 1, Division B, seat on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal. That endorsement was made at the expense of a fellow Republican candidate, District Judge Trudy M. White.
“I don’t feel like it is my job to write the law,” McDonald said. He said he strives to determine the legislative intent of each law used in his judicial decisions.
McDonald’s appellate seat represents voters in Baker, Zachary, Central and parts of Baton Rouge.
The Supreme Court seat being vacated six years early by Chief Justice Kitty Kimball includes the parishes of East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, West Feliciana, Livingston, Ascension Iberville and Pointe Coupee.
Kimball announced earlier that she will retire in January. Her successor will be an associate justice, rather than the chief justice for the state.
“This is an extreme honor,” Kelley said of parish Republicans’ Supreme Court endorsement at the Republican Party’s headquarters, 7047 Jefferson Highway.
“The Supreme Court is an extremely tough place to go to work,” Kelley added. “But I work as hard, if not harder, than any other judge.”
The 16-year judge said he does not always support the state laws that underlie his judicial decisions. “But I believe in them,” Kelley said. “It is our job to apply the law, as written, to the facts of each case.”
Higginbotham immediately set her sights on Kelley in the crowded race, explaining, “Unfortunately, you can’t vote for both of us.”
“He (Kelley) is a pretty good judge, but I have had to overturn him,” Higginbotham said of her experience on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.
“I ran against Tim Kelley two years ago,” Higginbotham noted.
“He had twice as much money, and I couldn’t win. Everybody told me so. But I won.”
Kelley and Higginbotham also face Republican opposition from Circuit Judges Jewel E. “Duke” Welch, of Baton Rouge, and Jeff Hughes, of Walker, along with District Judge William “Bill” Morvant, of Baton Rouge.
Hughes made a run for Kimball’s Supreme Court post in 2008. Morvant has the endorsement of the politically powerful Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.
Baton Rouge Democrats in the Supreme Court race are Circuit Judge John Michael Guidry and longtime trial attorney Mary Olive Pierson.
Baton Rouge attorney Jeffry L. Sanford, no party, also has filed for Kimball’s Supreme Court post.