Forum held for West Virginia Supreme Court candidates
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Republican ex-Congressman Evan Jenkins and other candidates for a West Virginia Supreme Court seat highlighted their resumes during a public forum less than three weeks before the Nov. 6 election.
Explaining why they should be elected to a nonpartisan position, several candidates pointed to the fact that they’re not career politicians. Some didn’t flat-out endorse themselves, either.
Boone County Circuit Judge Will Thompson said Thursday night West Virginians should do their homework “and vote for the most qualified candidate. That is all I ask. I’m not going to even necessarily ask you to vote for me.”
Ten candidates are running for the seat of retired Justice Robin Davis. Nine of them appeared at the forum at the state Culture Center. Another forum was held Monday for 10 candidates seeking the seat of retired Justice Menis Ketchum.
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 but still faces trial.
Jenkins was appointed by Gov. Jim Justice to Davis’ seat until the Nov. 6 election. He’s also running for Davis’ unexpired term, as 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.
Thompson said someone who works as an attorney wouldn’t be the best qualified candidate to become a justice because “we don’t have time for a learning curve in our state. We need people who can hit the ground running. (Judges) know what we’re doing.”
Thompson said one of the biggest reasons he’s running is to give a financial boost to the state’s drug court system where he’s currently involved. Kanawha County Family Court Judge Jim Douglas spent time discussing domestic relations cases.
Douglas said in 2015, 48 percent of civil cases filed with the state Supreme Court involved domestic relations.
Douglas said he attended Monday’s forum, and “what bothered me was not one word was said about divorce, custody or allocation. ... There was not anything said, to my chagrin, about domestic violence. Not one word about families and children. Why? Are children not more important than anything else?”
Kessler said he didn’t change as a person when he became Senate president in 2011. That occurred after Earl Ray Tomblin became acting governor when then-Gov. Joe Manchin won the 2010 U.S. Senate race after the death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
Kessler said he will stay grounded if elected a Supreme Court justice.
“Leaders lead by example,” he said.
Jenkins, who spent two terms in Congress after serving in both the state House and Senate, said West Virginia needs a Supreme Court justice “who actually understands what the people are thinking, haven’t had their nose in a book or the courtroom their entire life. I’ve listened to voters. I’ve been connected to the people, listening, understanding their needs.”
He said the court has been “out of touch with what the people of West Virginia want and expect.”
Six of the 10 candidates were identified by their party are Democrats. Wheeling attorney Jim O’Brien was the only one not in attendance Thursday.