HARPERS FERRY — Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge John Yoder — the other Republican vying for a seat on the state’s high court — is in a statistical tie with Democratic opponent Letitia “Tish” Chafin, according to a recent survey.
Last week, the West Virginia Poll showed that Yoder received support from 29 percent of those likely voters polled. Chafin, the managing partner of the H. Truman Chafin Law Firm in Williamson with her husband, state Sen. Truman Chafin, received 30 percent.
Meanwhile, incumbent Justice Robin Jean Davis, a Democrat, led the pack with 40 percent of those voters polled. Yoder’s fellow GOP candidate Allen Loughry received 24 percent of the vote.
Twenty-nine percent were undecided.
The poll, conducted for the Charleston Daily Mail by Cincinnati-based R.L. Repass and Partners, surveyed 401 likely voters — both over the telephone and online — between Aug. 22 and 25. The margin of error is 4.9 percent.
Yoder said in a statement Tuesday he was pleased with the poll’s findings but noted that the survey has “some flaws” that could make the actual status of the race “even more favorable” to his candidacy.
“The poll does not disclose where the Supreme Court candidates live, but that is on the ballot and is an important part of this race,” he explained. “I am the only candidate for the Supreme Court who is not from Charleston, and four out of five of the current Supreme Court (justices) are from Charleston.
“I believe that voters are more likely to vote for someone who is not from Charleston to add some geographical diversity to the Court as compared to stacking it with another Charleston insider.”
This isn’t the first time Yoder has made a run for the Court.
The judge ran in 1996, 2000 and again in 2010.
Justice Joseph Albright died in 2009 with a term expiring in 2012. Then-Gov. Joe Manchin appointed McHugh to fill the seat until 2010, when someone would be elected to fill the remaining two years of Albright’s term.
Yoder challenged McHugh for the open seat.
McHugh ended up raising $300,000, while Yoder spent only $6,000. However, Yoder still garnered 49.3 percent of the final vote to McHugh’s 50.70 percent.
“One of the reasons I did so well in 2010 against a very popular incumbent was that he was from Charleston and the ballot showed that, while I was not,” Yoder explained.
“Once again, I think residency is a big factor this year, and any poll that does not reveal residence of the candidates is flawed, since voters are more likely to vote for someone who is not from Charleston.
“After all, it is not the Supreme Court of Charleston. It is the Supreme Court of West Virginia.”
The other problem with the poll, the judge noted, is that the polling company “consistently skews votes” in favor of Democrats.
“For example, the poll shows Romney only getting 52 percent of the vote in West Virginia, yet, in 2008, McCain received 56 percent of the vote against Obama,” Yoder argued. “This year, President Obama is even more unpopular in West Virginia, so the numbers reflect how skewed the poll is against Republicans.
“A biased poll like this significantly understates my actual support.”