Montana Supreme Court Justice Laurie McKinnon photographed in Helena on Sept. 2, 2020. McKinnon is the incumbent in the race for the fifth seat on the Montana Supreme Court. Credit: Sara Diggins / Community News Service

As of mid-day Wednesday, incumbent Montana Supreme Court Justice Laurie McKinnon appeared likely to hold on to her seat, fending off a challenge from Helena attorney Mike Black in the nonpartisan race, according to preliminary results from the Montana Secretary of State’s Office.

As of 12:20 p.m. Nov. 4, the SOS office reported a 14-point lead for McKinnon with about 70% of precincts fully counted.

It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday whether Black had conceded the race. He did not immediately return a call from Montana Free Press.

McKinnon grew up in Maryland and holds a law degree from the University of Baltimore, according to reporting by the University of Montana’s Community News Service. She has lived in Montana since 1995, and previously worked as a deputy county attorney for Teton County and a special county attorney for Glacier County.

She was elected as a local district judge in 2006, serving for six years before winning a seat on Montana’s Supreme Court.

Montana Supreme Court Justice Jim Shea, who was unopposed in his re-election bid but subject to an up-or-down retention vote, appeared likely to hold his seat by an 80-20 margin as of mid-day Wednesday.

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Eric came to journalism in a roundabout way after studying engineering at Montana State University in Bozeman (credit, or blame, for his career direction rests with the campus's student newspaper, the Exponent). He has worked as a professional journalist in Montana since 2013, with stints at the Great Falls Tribune, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and Solutions Journalism Network before joining the Montana Free Press newsroom in Helena full time in 2019.