Former Arkansas state Rep. Jay Martin announces bid for Supreme Court chief justice

Jay Martin talks to reporters at the Arkansas state Capitol, Feb. 22, 2022, in Little Rock, Ark. (AP Photo/Andrew DeMillo, File)

A former Arkansas legislator who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination last year is running for chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Jay Martin on announced Wednesday that he’s running to replace outgoing Chief Justice Dan Kemp in next year’s nonpartisan election. Kemp said earlier this year that he would retire and not seek reelection.

Martin is the fourth candidate to launch a bid for the post, joining Justices Karen Baker, Barbara Webb and Rhonda Wood.

Arkansas’ court seats are nonpartisan, but the court has been targeted by outside conservative groups in recent years.

In July, Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders named a former state GOP chairman and federal prosecutor, Cody Hiland, to the seven-member court, creating a conservative majority that includes Webb and Wood. Baker won reelection last year, defeating a former Republican lawmaker who touted himself as a constitutional conservative.

Hiland was named to fill the vacancy created by Justice Robin Wynne’s death.

Martin served in the state House from 2003 to 2007. He lost his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination last year to Chris Jones, who was defeated by Sanders in the general election. Martin also ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 2006.