By CHRIS DICKERSON
MORGANTOWN – All indications are that Beth Walker will formally announce another run for the state Supreme Court.
So far, only incumbent Justice Brent Benjamin has declared his intentions to run for the lone seat up for election in 2016.
Walker fell short in her first bid for a seat on the Supreme Court in 2008. Walker, who lives in Morgantown, is Associate General Counsel for the West Virginia United Health System.
“I am giving serious consideration to becoming a candidate for Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2016,” she told West Virginia MetroNews' Hoppy Kercheval this week in an email. “I plan to announce my decision publicly very soon.”
“If I run, it will reflect my conservative vision of the role of a Justice on the Supreme Court.”
When she ran for one of two seats in the 2008 election, Walker ran as a Republican. She narrowly lost out on the second seat behind Democrats Menis Ketchum and Margaret Workman.
But the 2016 Supreme Court election will be non-partisan after the Legislature made that change to judicial elections in this year's session. Like county school board races, judicial elections will take place during the primary.
As Kercheval says in his June 5 column about Walker, her entry "reveals a significant shift in the political dynamic since Benjamin ran successfully for his first 12-year term in 2004."
"Benjamin was an underdog to Democrat incumbent Warren McGraw until West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and Don Blankenship’s “And for the Sake of the Kids ..” PAC stepped in," Kercheval wrote. "Then-Massey Energy CEO Blankenship hired political consultant Greg Thomas to run the PAC. It raised and spent $3.7 million in ads criticizing McGraw and supporting Benjamin."
Kercheval said Thomas and CALA now support Walker instead of Benjamin.
“Unfortunately, Justice Brent Benjamin has cast a series of votes that have contributed to our state’s Judicial Hellhole status," WV CALA Executive Director Roman Stauffer told Kercheval. "It’s not surprising that the personal injury lawyers are considering supporting his campaign.”
A Benjamin 2016 campaign adviser, however, told Kercheval that his candidate is what a justice should be.
“He is regarded across the spectrum as a fair Justice,” said Steve Cohen, who worked on Benjamin's campaign in 2004 as well as being a former executive director for WV CALA. “He’s not in the tank for any particular agenda other than justice.”