CHARLESTON – The Democratic candidates for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals led the pack in contributions going into Tuesday’s primary.
In their pre-primary reports, due at the end of last month, three Democrats — Robin Jean Davis, Letitia “Tish” Chafin and James “Jim” Rowe — all showed year-to-date contributions totaling more than $150,000.
Davis has $240,699.18 in total contributions; Chafin, $173,600.55; and Rowe, $158,627.46.
Meanwhile, Democrat J.D. Beane reported $89,609.20 in total contributions; Republican Allen Loughry, $62,050; Democrat Louis Palmer, $30,084.24; Republican John Yoder, $8,518.36 and Democrat H. John “Buck” Rogers, $3,829.80.
All eight candidates were vying for two open seats on the Court. Davis and Chafin earned the Democratic nominations, while Loughry and Yoder were unopposed for the Republican nods.
As for contributions collected during the most recent period, Rowe, a circuit judge, collected the most with $61,170.08.
Chafin, the managing partner of the H. Truman Chafin Law Firm in Williamson with her husband, state Sen. Truman Chafin, received $31,431.86.
Palmer, a current Supreme Court law clerk, collected $23,190.51. Davis, a sitting justice who was first elected to the state’s high court in 1996 and re-elected in 2000, received $17,950. Beane, also a circuit judge, received $13,262. Rogers, a New Martinsville attorney, collected just $1,969.80.
Both Loughry, also a current Supreme Court law clerk, and Yoder, also a circuit judge, received no contributions during the most recent period, according to their reports.
On Friday, West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse said it was concerned about the amount of campaign contributions that were coming from the personal injury bar.
According to its own research, CALA said the race’s two frontrunners in the Democratic primary, Davis and Chafin, received nearly 95 percent of all large personal injury lawyer contributions during the primary reporting cycle.
Overall, personal injury lawyer interests account for nearly one-third of the large campaign contributions given to state Supreme Court candidates so far this year, the group noted.
In West Virginia, donations greater than $250 require disclosure of the donor’s occupation and employer.
According to her latest filing, Davis has accepted more than $100,000 in contributions from personal injury lawyers, their staff, spouses and family members, CALA found — accounting for nearly half of her total large contributions.
Meanwhile, Chafin has raised more than 40 percent of her large campaign contributions from personal injury lawyer interests — a total of more than $60,000 in contributions, the group found.
On the other hand, the other six candidates have combined to raise only $7,500 in large contributions from personal injury lawyer interests.
“While lawmakers previously passed a public financing pilot program for this year’s Court race in an attempt to reduce the influence of special interest money, it’s clearly having little impact,” CALA said in a statement.
In fact, only one candidate, Loughry, opted into the program.
CALA continued, “As a result, most candidates are free to accept significant amounts of campaign contributions from many of the lawyers that could ultimately appear before them on the Supreme Court.”
Davis, Chafin and Rowe also lead the pack in cash-on-hand.
Chafin is way ahead of the other seven candidates with a cash balance of $438,088.24.
Rowe’s report showed a cash balance of $57,531.85.
Davis reported slightly less cash-on-hand, with $56,972.84.
Meanwhile, Loughry reported a cash balance of $53,724.98; Beane $35,542.14; Yoder $6,568.43; Rogers $1,314.90; and Palmer $1,120.05.
As for expenditures, Davis, Chafin and Rowe also landed on top.
Chafin reported the most in total expenditures, year-to-date, with $732,746.77. Davis reported $543,127.44 and Rowe $110,620.59.
The other candidates reported significantly less in expenditures: Beane, $51,584.86; Palmer, $29,164.19; Loughry, $8,325.02; Rogers, $2,514.90; and Yoder, $1,836.57.
Each campaign’s next, or post-primary, report is due in June.
The state’s general election is Nov. 6.