CHARLESTON – An eastern Panhandle circuit judge who is one of the Republican candidates for state Supreme Court says an upcoming heart surgery will affect neither his caseload nor his campaign.

Judge John Yoder said Friday he soon will have surgery at George Washington University Hospital to replace an aortic valve in his heart.

"I was born with a defect in my aortic valve and have known for about 10 years that the valve would have to be replaced, but was hoping it would be a few years away," he said. "I found out this week that the time has come when I must replace it in scheduled surgery without any further delay."

He said he doesn't know the exact surgery date yet, but he expects it to be around Feb. 22.

"If everything goes well, I am hopeful that I will be able to start returning to work in about three weeks and then have a full recovery in six weeks," he said. "I will continue working until the day I go into surgery.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ketchum has assigned retired Jefferson County Judge Thomas Steptoe to cover Yoder's caseload during the surgery and recovery.

"I am expecting to be fully recovered in time to actively campaign in my race for state Supreme Court this year," he posted on Facebook. "I will appreciate your continued support and prayers for successful surgery and recovery."

Yoder and current state Supreme Court law clerk Allen Loughry are the Republicans running for two state Supreme Court seats.

On the Democratic side, current Justice Robin Jean Davis, circuit judges J.D. Beane and Jim Rowe, Charleston attorney Tish Chafin, current Supreme Court law clerk Louis Palmer and New Martinsville attorney H. John "Buck" Rogers are running for the two spots in the general election.

The primary election is May 8, and the general election is Nov. 6.

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