CHARLESTON – A new poll shows former state Attorney General Darrell McGraw is leading in his bid for a second stint on the state Supreme Court.
The poll, conducted by Orion Strategies and released Feb. 25, shows McGraw with the support of 25 percent of registered voters. Incumbent Justice Brent Benjamin comes in at 10 percent, while Beth Walker and Bill Wooton are at 4 percent each. Wayne King has 2 percent.
The poll also shows that 55 percent of those surveyed still are undecided.
“We also took a look at the new way the Supreme Court election will be held, using nonpartisan candidates that will all be on the May primary ballot,” said Curtis Wilkerson of Orion. “Currently, it seems that name identification is having impact until the television ads start airing.”
Benjamin’s campaign said the survey shows that the race is a two-person campaign between McGraw and Benjamin, who defeated McGraw’s brother Warren for his seat on the bench in 2004.
“It is not surprising that Mr. McGraw draws 25% of the vote,” said Jim Shaffer, Benjamin’s campaign manager. “He and his brother have been running for office in West Virginia for nearly 50 years.
“But McGraw’s campaign should be concerned that he has lost nearly half of the support he had just four years ago.” Darrell McGraw drew 48.8 percent of the vote in his losing bid for re-election as Attorney General in 2012.”
Shaffer said his campaign will draw “a clear distinction” between the candidates’ judicial philosophies during the race. He also, besides, McGraw, the remaining candidates have no judicial experience and, therefore, no record on which to judge their philosophies.
“Justice Benjamin’s record as a judge who adheres to the laws of West Virginia and our constitution stands in stark contrast to Mr. McGraw’s record,” he said.
The Orion survey also showed that Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton in the bid for Democratic presidential nomination in West Virginia. The numbers are 32 percent for Sanders and 24 percent for Clinton, but 44 percent still are undecided.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump stands at 38 percent, while Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson garner 12, 11 and 10 percent respectively. John Kasich is at 6 percent, while 24 percent still are undecided.
For governor, Jim Justice leads the Democratic candidates with 24 percent. Jeff Kessler has 16 percent, and Booth Goodwin 14 percent. But, 45 percent are undecided. Bill Cole is running unopposed in the Republican primary.
Orion conducted the telephone survey on Feb. 21-22 among historic and likely voters. The survey was completed by 306 respondents with a margin of error of 5.6 with a 95 percent confidence rate.
The sample was proportionate to each of the three congressional districts in the state. All 55 counties were called, and results were collected from 53 of those counties. Partisan registration among respondents was 50 percent Democratic, 35 percent Republican and 15 percent Independent.