CHARLESTON – The State Election Commission members are currently reviewing 155 challenges of contributions to Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin’s re-election campaign.
The objections could possibly disqualify Benjamin from participating in the public financing of the campaign.
The SEC spent Wednesday in an emergency meeting and resumed the meeting Thursday evening. The meeting resumed Friday afternoon and is scheduled to meet again Feb. 10.
Beth Walker, who is running against Benjamin, filed the objections.
While reviewing the objections, commissioners were advised the Walker campaign is challenging an additional 365 contributions to Benjamin, and is planning to challenge all qualifying contributions for Beckley lawyer and former legislator William Wooton.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant told the Charleston Gazette Mail that public financing is about having more voices to be heard in the process.
“Here, around every corner, it’s being challenged, which is their right to do,” she told the paper.
After reviewing the objections, the commissioners rejected 131 of the 155 objections. The commissioners upheld 67 contributions where the required contributor information was collected on a form produced by Benjamin’s campaign and not by the SEC.
Commissioners concluded that as long as all information required under the public campaign financing law is included on the form, the law does not require candidates to use SEC-supplied forms.
Briana Wilson, the communications director for the Secretary of State’s Office, said during the SEC meeting on Wednesday, Walker challenged the additional 365 Benjamin qualifying contributions.
Wilson said when the SEC met Friday to determine qualifications for both Wooton and Benjamin, the Commission certified Wooton to receive public financing and delayed the decision on Benjamin.
Under the public campaign financing law, the candidates for Supreme Court can receive up to $475,000 in campaign funds (and can raise up to $50,000) and to qualify, they must raise at least $35,000 in contributions of no more than $100 each, from a minimum of 500 contributors.
The qualifying period for the May judicial elections ended on Jan. 30 and both Benjamin and Wooton have submitted forms to the SEC to certify they are eligible for public campaign financing.