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This year's dog whistle

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Circuit Judge Rhonda Wood of Conway, who lost a 2010 race for state Court of Appeals to Jo Hart, is running for another seat on the appellate court this year. Judicial elections are non-partisan, but Wood remains determined to overcome that limitation.

In 2010, Wood used robocalls by a former Republican governor, Mike Huckabee, and advertised her endorsement by the chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party. Get it? More damaging to her appearance of impartiality was her early money from Tyson Foods and personal campaigning by the boss of Tyson's workers compensation division. The Court of Appeals is generally the court of last resort on workers comp cases, so appearances weren't reassuring to someone injured on the line of a Tyson plant.

This year, Wood hasn't blatantly attempted to declare that she is a Republican and proud ally of the corporate interests — yet. But her announcement contained code language familiar to the Republican base. Her news release said "my personal values are Arkansas values — faith, family, hardworking, conservative values." She touted her "fairness, judicial restraint, and consistency." Meaning: Bible-beating Republican businessmen have nothing to fear. Hard-working families who look first to the law rather than the heavens for justice should be a mite nervous.

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