A key judge’s race has gone to an incumbent despite hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent in support of her challenger.

Democrat Pat Joyce has held off Republican Brian Stumpe by 6-percent of the vote in the race for Cole County Circuit Judge. Joyce is the only Democrat on the bench in a circuit in which the constitutionality of state laws and the wording of ballot issues is challenged, making it an important circuit statewide.

The Republican State Leadership Committee spent more than $150,000 on third-party ads alone, some of which called Joyce a “liberal judge.” Stumpe said he could not control what was in those ads and denied ever saying anything negative about Joyce.

Joyce tells Missourinet she thinks her ties to the community overcame the money spent in the campaign against her.

“I think what happened is that people started seeing all of that money be brought in and they saw all the negative campaign that was going on,” says Joyce. “I have deep roots within the community. I’ve helped a lot of people over 35 years and there was a belief that I was doing the right thing, I worked very hard, and the perception that they tried to make of me was just so inaccurate that the people in Cole County said, ‘That is not right. We need to return her back to office.'”

The race has fueled those who say Missouri must toughen its laws regarding campaign finance. Both campaigns have been criticized in that vein; Stumpe’s for money going through committees that make its origin hard to track, Joyce’s because some of her donors came from attorneys, which Republicans suggested could include lawyers that appear before her.

Joyce did not offer an opinion on whether campaign finance should be reformed.

“Whatever [lawmakers] decide about campaign finance reform is down the street, but I do know that people here should be voting on judges based on their merit and their experience and their ability to be fair and impartial.”

The victory means Joyce will sit on the bench in Cole County for another six years.