COLUMBIA — Longtime S.C. Chief Justice Jean Toal is getting a challenger in her quest for a second full term.

Hopkins Rep. Joe Neal says he got a letter last week from Associate Justice Costa Pleicones announcing his intent to seek the court’s top seat.

Neal says he also got a letter from Toal announcing her decision to run for another term. The Democrat said he was surprised the chief justice race would be contested.

Legislators elect the state’s judges. Toal is a former lawmaker who was elected to the Supreme Court in 1988 and has been chief justice since 2000. She is the first woman on the state’s high court.

Pleicones was elected to the Supreme Court in 2000. He previously served as a circuit judge.