Supreme court debate Nickell

Newly elected Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Shea Nickell (center) speaks with Sen. Whitney Westerfield during their supreme court debate in Hopkinsville in October. Nickell won the District 1 seat in the supreme court Tuesday evening. 

Appellate Judge Christopher Shea Nickell walked away with a narrow victory in the race against Sen. Whitney Westerfield to the Kentucky Supreme Court District 1 seat.

According to unofficial election results from the Kentucky State Board of Elections, Nickell garnered just over 50% of the vote while Westerfield took 49% across the 24-county district in western Kentucky.

Nickell, 60, will serve the remainder of retired Justice Bill Cunningham's term ending in 2022. Nickell has 35 years experience as an attorney, the past 13 of which have been served in the Court of Appeals.

Westerfield, a 38-year-old Hopkinsville attorney, said in a phone interview with the New Era, "I'm of course disappointed that I didn't win. Amanda and I prayed on this when the seat came open, and we thought this was the right thing to do, but we trust God's plan, and he needs me in the senate."

Westerfield immediately phoned his opponent once the race was called around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"I encouraged him to be a justice that will stick to the law," Westerfield said.

During the non-partison campaign, both Nickell and Westerfield announced their Republican registration and Christian beliefs.

The two sparred in a local debate in October, during which Westerfield's lack of experience as a judge was brought up by Nickell.

Westerfield didn't believe that would be a hindrance to voters — and it wasn't in Christian, Todd and Trigg, where Westerfield took the majority. In Christian County, Westerfield triumphed with 8,959 votes to Nickell's 3,555, in unofficial poll results from the state board of elections. In Todd, Westerfield won 71% of the votes and 60% in Trigg.

"I'm glad to know that people in this area were willing to support me, and I hope that is a reflection on the kind of work I've put in the legislature," Westerfield said.

Although it wasn't enough to win all the counties in the district, Westerfield said he will continue his work in the senate in the upcoming session.

"I'm glad the race is done," he said. "I haven't stopped my legislative work over the course of the campaign, and I'm geared up and excited for the 2020 session."

Westerfield said he plans to focus on a bail reform bill he's been working on for the past few months.

"I've also been serving on a public assistance reform task force, and of course the biggest thing is going to be the budget," he said. "That's at the top of our to-do list."

Reach Zirconia Alleyne at 270-887-3243 or zalleyne@kentuckynewera.com.

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