CHARLESTON – Former state Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman has proposed she and the other candidates in this year's Supreme Court race sign a pledge to limit campaign spending.
But the others in the race don't seem to be open to that idea.
Workman, who seeks to return the bench in one of the two seats up for election this year, recently signed the Code of Fair Campaign Practices, a document developed by the State Election Commission and the Secretary of State, with the exception of the provision relating to the spending limits.
For the state Supreme Court race, the code suggests a spending limit of $150,000.
Workman said she challenges the other candidates to do the same. But she says she won't do so unless the others do because the playing field wouldn't be level.
"I believe the amount of monies that must be raised and expended in judicial campaigns is becoming more and more unseemly, and is further eroding the confidence of people in the integrity of the system," Workman said. "If we all sign the voluntary limits, it will eliminate the necessity to raise obscene amounts of money.
"Quite frankly, I believe the amount of monies that must be raised and expended in judicial campaigns is becoming more and more unseemly, and is further eroding the confidence of people in the integrity of the system."
Workman suggested that all candidates meet at the Secretary of State's office and sign the pledge at the same time.
"If we work together, we can show the people of West Virginia that we are serious about improving the judicial election process," she said.
A campaign spokeswoman for Chief Justice Spike Maynard, who is seeking re-election, dismissed Workman's idea.
"Spike won't be signing it," Amy Shuler Goodwin said.
Beth Walker, the lone Republican seeking a seat on the bench, said she won't be signing it either.
"Folks who know me know that I don't need to sign a piece of paper to run a campaign that's fair and honest," the Charleston attorney said. "West Virginia voters deserve nothing less."
Menis Ketchum also said he wouldn't be agreeing to the limit.
"I have not agreed to this cap because the $150,000 limit creates an unfair advantage for incumbent candidates and those who may have achieved name recognition through other means," said Ketchum, who started running television ads in mid-March. "The originator of this voluntary act, former Secretary of State Ken Hechler, himself exceeded the cap he helped put into place when he ran for Congress a few years ago."
Workman even suggested that if the other candidates think the $150,000 limit is too small that they all could agree to another limit and stick to that.
"Let's just try to make this a more respectable approach to electing judges," she said.
Even though he said he might end up spending less than the $150,000 proposed cap, Bob Bastress said he still wouldn't agree to the limit.
"It's a generous offer from someone who has the most name recognition of the four of us," Bastress, a West Virginia University law professor said, referring to the four Democrats. "It would be to her advantage for none of us to get the name recognition she has."
"She has a headstart. She has a huge lead over me in terms of name recognition. For me to agree to a cap at that level would not be wise."