Two prominent Republican politicians are among a pack of attorneys and judges competing Tuesday for a pair of West Virginia Supreme Court positions vacated by justices caught up in a scandal over spending by the court.
Ex-U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and former House of Delegates speaker Tim Armstead were appointed by GOP Gov. Jim Justice to fill the seats until the election. Now both are running to fill the unexpired terms on West Virginia’s highest court.
Armstead is running against seven attorneys and two circuit judges to complete the term of retired Justice Menis Ketchum. Other candidates include circuit judges Joanna Tabit and Chris Wilkes as well as attorneys Harry Bruner Jr., Robert Carlton, Ronald Hatfield, Mark Hunt, Hiram Lewis IV, D.C. Offutt Jr. and Jeff Woods. The term runs through 2020.
Jenkins is among 10 candidates vying for the seat of retired Justice Robin Davis, whose term runs through 2024. Another well-known political figure running for Davis’ unexpired term is Democratic former state Senate President Jeff Kessler. Six other candidates are attorneys, one is a circuit judge and one is a family court judge. They are circuit Judge Will Thompson, family court Judge Jim Douglas and attorneys Robert J. Frank, Brenden Long, Jim O’Brien, Marty “Redshoes” Sheehan, William Schwartz and Dennise Renee Smith.
Judicial elections in West Virginia became nonpartisan in 2016, but the court’s turmoil stirred political attacks. Some Democrats argued that the court’s shakeup was a power grab by the Republican-led legislature.
The House of Delegates in August impeached Davis and Justices Allen Loughry, Beth Walker and Margaret Workman over questions involving lavish office renovations that evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty. Ketchum resigned before the impeachment vote to avoid trial. Davis retired immediately after the August vote.