CHARLESTON – Charleston attorney Mike Stuart says he is exploring his options for a possible 2008 run for state Attorney General.
Stuart, an attorney in the Charleston office of Steptoe Johnson, filed pre-candidacy papers on April 27 with the Secretary of State's office. However, he didn't file for a specific post.
"We want to have the opportunity to explore a run, but we're far from making a definite decision," Stuart said Thursday. "But there was an intent to our filing. We want to explore our options for a statewide run next year, potentially for attorney general."
Current Attorney General Darrell McGraw also has filed undeclared pre-candidacy papers, and Chief Deputy AG Fran Hughes told The Record that McGraw again will run for AG in 2008.
While saying the current AG's office "certainly is something desiring of change," Stuart said he would not run a negative campaign against McGraw or any other candidate if he does decide to run for the office.
"At the end of the day, the people of West Virginia need capable leadership in that office," Stuart, 40, said. "It's important that the candidates for that job are people who represent the citizens and work with the Legislature.
"After as many years as the attorney general has served, it's important that West Virginians make an investment in the future.
"My vision is different from the one we have today. I just think we should go in a different direction."
In fact, Stuart said McGraw deserves praise for his years of public service as a state Supreme Court Justice and as AG.
"I don't want people to think it's about the existing attorney general," said Stuart, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for a House of Delegates seat last year. "At the end of the day, my fundamental belief is that we need someone who can inspire confidence. That office truly is a representative of the people and not of special interests.
"If we do decide to run for attorney general, it would be about building an office that is worthy of the people of West Virginia. It would be about running for a vision of what that office can be.
McGraw has been criticized during his tenure as AG for his office's use of outside counsel and for doling out settlement money. Critics contend that McGraw's office contracts work to attorneys who have donated to his political campaigns. They also say the way he awards settlement monies is something only the state Legislature is allowed to do.
Stuart said those are important issues.
"I think it's important that the attorney general's office operates in a way that is transparent to the public," he said. "We would operate in a way that would instill confidence in the office. We would work closely with the Legislature -- with members of both parties. We would be careful not to accept contributions from people who work closely with our office.
"We have a clear vision of how that office should be run."
But again, Stuart stressed his campaign wouldn't be a negative one in any way.
"If we were to embark on a campaign for attorney general, we won't be running against anyone," he said. "Instead, we'll be running for the vision of the office of attorney general that we think the people deserve."
Stuart, 40, said lots of people have pushed him to consider a run for AG.
"But a statewide campaign is a big challenge, especially if you're a Republican," he said. "But we need true leadership."
Stuart is a member of the Small Business Committee of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Advisory Board of the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, and immediate past Chairman of the Entrepreneurship Committee of A Vision Shared. He is also the President of WV Publishing LLC and the Publisher of WVInc. Magazine.
Stuart earned his law degree from Boston University, where he served as Editor of the Journal of Law & Medicine. He holds dual degrees from West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Accounting) and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.
Stuart and his wife Katrina have two young children.