WINFIELD – In the two races for circuit judge openings in West Virginia in Tuesday’s election, a Republican challenger and Democratic incumbent were victorious.
Voters in Putnam, Doddridge, Ritchie and Pleasants counties were asked to fill an unexpired term for circuit judge. Earlier this year, Putnam Circuit Judge O.C. “Hobby” Spaulding retired after announcing he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, while Judge Robert Holland died in September 2010 following a heart attack.
Putnam has two judges, and its own circuit, the 29th, while Doddridge, Ritchie and Pleasants counties are part of the Third Circuit, and share one judge.
Joseph K. Reeder, 46 and a Hurricane attorney, defeated J. Robert Leslie 12,855 to 9,517. In June, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed Leslie, 47 and a former partner in the Teays Valley law firm of Tyree, Embree and Associates, to fill Spaulding’s vacancy.
Reeder’s victory was buoyed by a strong GOP showing in Putnam County, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney who, despite a losing effort nationally, defeated President Barack Obama by a 2-to-1 margin, 15,926-7,198. Also, Allen Loughry, a state Supreme Court law clerk who won one of the two Court seats, garnered 13,188 votes.
Timothy L. Sweeney, a former Pleasants County prosecutor Gov. Tomblin appointed in December 2010 to fill Holland’s vacancy, was the runaway winner against challenger Ira M. Haught. Of the 9,186 ballots cast in the race in all three counties, Sweeney, 55, took 6,041, or 66 percent, over Haught’s 3,145.
Haught, 53 and a Harrisville attorney, was unable to ride the Republican wave in Doddrige and Ritchie counties where Loughry and Jefferson Circuit Judge John Yoder were the top two vote-getters for Supreme Court. Doddridge was the only county where he kept the margin close, losing to Sweeney by just over 100 votes 1,385-1,279.
Sweeney not only trounced Haught in Pleasants 2,107 to 703, but also in Ritchie County 2,549 to 1,163.
Hindering Haught was a statement of charges filed against him in April by the Lawyer Disciplinary Board, the Court’s prosecutorial arm. The two-count statement accused Haught of violating six Rules of Professional Conduct by converting funds belonging to a client for his personal use in one case, and lying to investigators about who’s interest he represented in another.
An evidentiary hearing on the statement was twice scheduled, and continued prior to Tuesday’s election. It is now scheduled for Dec. 5-6 in Charleston.
Both Reeder and Sweeney will serve until 2016 when the term ends. In West Virginia, circuit judges serve eight-year terms.