Kentucky has a new justice on the state Supreme Court.
In unofficial results, Court of Appeals Judge Christopher Shea Nickell won the nonpartisan 1st District Supreme Court of Kentucky Justice seat with 57% of the vote, totaling 71,941 votes, over Republican State Senator Whitney Westerfield who captured 42% of the vote, 53,497 votes total. The Associated Press called the race for Nickell.
Nickell replaces retired Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham and will serve the remainder of Cunningham's term until 2022. The seat has been held temporarily by David Buckingham.
"I hope I can win the respect of my colleagues, those who fill the other seven seats on the Supreme Court, that I can contribute to the sound analysis that applies to each controversy that appears before us," Nickell said in a phone interview. "For 35 years I've dedicated myself to serving others through the law. I hope as a justice as I can continue to follow the rule of law."
Nickell said his experience as a Court of Appeals judge, trial attorney and prosecutor for why voters elected him. During his campaign, Nickell often pointed to that experience as a seperating factor from his opponent. Nickell describes himself as conservative who'll stick to the original intent of the Constitution of Kentucky.
Westerfield said his election loss is disappointing, but that the loss wouldn't slow him down.
"You know, my legislative work has not stopped since I got in the race. Over the last several months, I’ll still continue my work as a state senator," Westerfield said. "And I got a handful of bills ready to hit the ground running in 2020."
Throughout Westerfield's campaign, the state senator repeatedly claimed courts across the country were "legislating from the bench" and becoming too "liberal" and "activist". Westerfield said he told Nickell during his call conceding the election Nickell needs to be firm as a constitutional conservative.
"I told him you need to stick to the law and encourage the other members of the court to do the same thing when they deviate from it. We'll be watching. There are two more races up for Supreme Court seats, I believe next year," Westerfield said in a phone interview.
Westerfield said he hasn't ruled out running again for Nickell's Supreme Court seat in 2022, but wants legislative work to be a focus in the meantime.