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TV Ad Spending Appears in West Virginia Supreme Court Race

March 11, 2016

TV Ad Spending Appears in West Virginia Supreme Court Race

First candidate ad contracts are booked


Contact: Laurie Kinney, lkinney@justiceatstake.org, (202) 588-9454; cell (571) 882-3615

WASHINGTON, DC, March 11  – With nearly two months to go before Election Day on May 10, television ad contracts worth at least $28,380 have been booked by a candidate in West Virginia’s five-way race for a single Supreme Court of Appeals seat, according to an analysis of public FCC records by Justice at Stake.  

The ad contracts were purchased by the campaign of former state legislator William “Bill” Wooten, and will run in the Beckley/Bluefield, Charleston/Huntington, and Clarksburg markets. Wooten is competing in a race for the seat currently held by Justice Brent Benjamin, who is seeking re-election to the position. Also vying for the seat are attorney Wayne King, former state Attorney General Darrell McGraw, Jr., and attorney Beth Walker.  Ad totals were current as of 9:30 am CT on March 11.  West Virginia’s Supreme Court elections are nonpartisan, and provide the opportunity for candidates to use public financing for their campaigns.

“West Virginia has put important reforms in place with its judicial public financing system, and by making Supreme Court elections nonpartisan,” said Susan Liss, Executive Director of Justice at Stake, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for fair courts and tracks judicial election spending. “The state has certainly been in the public spotlight for spending and advertising in these elections in the years before reform.  We’ll be watching closely to see what happens this year.”  

In 2012, total costs for a West Virginia Supreme Court race for two seats reached almost $3.7 million, with almost $1.3 million spent on television ads, according to The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2011-12 by Justice at Stake, the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.  In that election, only one candidate used funds from what was then a pilot public financing program.  The most expensive state Supreme Court election in West Virginia took place in 2004, when total costs were over $6 million in a race for one seat.  Justice Benjamin was elected in that race and is running for reelection this year.

According to the state’s campaign finance reporting system website, to date the candidates have reported raising: 

Wooton: $70,606

Benjamin:  $41,511

King:  (no report online)

McGraw: (no report online)

Walker: (no report online

The positions and policies of Justice at Stake publications and campaign partners are their own, and do not necessarily reflect those of other campaign partners or board members.
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