WASHINGTON – A Washington-based political action committee has released two more ads regarding the state Supreme Court race.
In one titled “Milking Taxpayers Dry,” the Republican State Leadership Committee targets candidates Darrell McGraw and Bill Wooton.
McGraw is a former state Supreme Court justice and longtime state Attorney General, while Wooton is a former state lawmaker. Both served in those offices as Democrats, but all judicial elections in West Virginia now are non-partisan.
“Insiders McGraw and Wooton have milked taxpayers dry,” the narrator of the ad, which can be viewed online. “McGraw got caught using over $100,000 on travel, chocolate shops, dry cleaning and more. And almost $1 million can’t even be accounted for.
“Wooton? His company grabs almost $20,000 a month in rent from state agencies.
“It’s not right. It’s greed.”
In response, Wooton said he does have a minority interest in a business that rents property, and some state agencies rent from the company.
"In the ad, Beth Walker’s allies accuse me of being an 'insider' consumed by 'greed,'" Wooton said. "I do own a fractional interest in a company that receives almost $20,000 a month in rent from state agencies as payment for 37,629 square feet of office space, plus parking. Do the math – those leases are not suggestive of greed – the state negotiated an excellent deal.
"Also, the leases with the state were negotiated by the previous owner of the buildings, prior to the sale of the buildings to the company that I am associated with.
"And, I don’t think I qualify as an 'insider.' I have held public office from January 2009 until December 2010, and prior to that last held public office in December 2002. I have not been in public office during the last six years, and I have held public office less than two of the past 16 years."
In the second ad titled “Health Advocate,” the RSLC praises candidate Beth Walker’s “record serving as associate general counsel for the state’s largest healthcare system.” That system is the West Virginia United Health System.
“In the real world of health care, career politicians like McGraw and Wooton have failed us, the narrator says in the ad, which also can be viewed online. “That’s why Beth Walker is the best choice for Supreme Court. She’s fought for our health systems and for patients.”
RSLC President Matt Walter also praised Walker in a press release.
“Simply put, Beth Walker’s extensive knowledge of our legal system and her diverse and impressive resume make her the best candidate for the West Virginia bench,” he said. “While career politicians like Darrell McGraw and Bill Wooton have proven their commitment to President Obama and special interests, we know Beth will be an independent voice, putting West Virginians first as she has continuously done throughout her career.”
A spokeswoman for the RSLC said the group sees its role as informing voters about the candidates in the West Virginia Supreme Court race.
"In a state that has increasingly moved away from Obama Democrats in recent years, it’s important to have a bench that reflects the values of its citizens" RSLC Communications Director Ellie Wallace said. "Whereas Beth Walker is a principled, accomplished candidate running for the state Supreme Court, her opponents Bill Wooton and Darrell McGraw are previously elected Democrats with a history of standing up for President Obama and his liberal allies and not for West Virginians.
"JFI (the RSLC's Judicial Fairness Initiative) was started in 2014 specifically with races like this one in West Virginia and in other states that choose judges through elections in mind. Liberals have been increasingly using the bench as a way to circumvent state legislatures where voters have voted them out of the majorities in states around the country.
"The bench should reflect the values of the voters in those states, and if voters have the relevant information that they need about the candidates to make an informed decision on Election Day, we believe they will make the right choice. JFI is dedicated to filling that information gap for voters."
On May 3, the RSLC unveiled the BestChoiceForWV.org website endorsing Walker’s candidacy.
“In a crowded field of career politicians vying for a seat on the West Virginia bench, Beth Walker stands out as the right choice for a fair and effective judiciary,” Walter said. “On Election Day, voters will have an opportunity to restore integrity to the state’s highest court, and I have no doubt that Beth Walker will stand up for West Virginians at every turn, shutting down special interests and advocating instead for strong, moral values.”
Meanwhile, McGraw’s campaign has responded to another RSLC ad released last week.
That ad, entitled “Audit,” says “McGraw used your tax dollars as a piggy bank for his office. Investigators discovered nearly $100,000 of taxpayer funded spending on travel, chocolate shops, dry cleaning and foreign language tapes."
“McGraw even used the state plane to fly to DC so he could catch a flight for his family’s European vacation," says the narrator of the ad, which can be viewed online. "It’s not right. Keep McGraw off the bench.”
McGraw’s campaign issued a statement about what it calls “the plane truth.”
“In his official capacity as Attorney General, McGraw had been subpoenaed to testify in a case involving his office and the Better Government Bureau of Canton, Ohio,” the statement says. “His testimony caused McGraw to miss his commercial flight from Charleston, W.Va., to D.C. for a family trip to Madrid where his son was studying abroad.
“McGraw did take the state plane to D.C. to connect with his family, but he reimbursed the state 100 percent for use of the plane … costing the taxpayers zero. McGraw’s wife wrote a check to the state for $1,020 fully reimbursing the state for the use of the King Air 300. …
“His exemplary record of fighting for West Virginians should not be diminished by deceptive lies from Washington political operatives. We can’t let Washington outsiders control our Supreme Court. That’ll never fly!”
The non-partisan election is May 10. In addition to McGraw, Walker and Wooton, incumbent Justice Brent Benjamin and Clay County attorney Wayne King also are running.