CHARLESTON — Bill Schwartz filed pre-candidacy papers with the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office to run in the 2020 state Supreme Court justice race.
"I don’t think we’ve learned any lessons from the last go-around with the Supreme Court," Schwartz said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "Obviously, I have some serious issues with the way the appointments occurred last time around, which led to an obvious advantage and an election of the same people that were appointed."
Schwartz said it was nothing personal against those that were appointed, but the process of how it was done bothered him.
"Not just that, I felt as if the entire impeachment process had the feeling of a coup to me," Schwartz said. "There’s no doubt in my mind that one or two of those justices deserved to be removed from the court based on their actions—the proof is in the criminal prosecutions that happened afterward. But, the entire court being swept out and being opened to replacement by appointment of the governor left a bad taste in my mouth, and I think so for a lot of people."
Bill Schwartz, filing pre-candidacy papers provided photo
Schwartz said the views outside the state last year was questioning what’s going on in West Virginia and what was going on with the court.
"I don’t think the election process has cured that," Schwartz said. "I think another round may, but we will see. Three seats are coming up and I intend to run for one of those seats—I’m not sure which one yet. But I do intend to run for one of those seats coming up in 2020."
Schwartz said he's learned lessons from the last election, which he believes will help him this time around.
Schwartz was one of 20 candidates for the compressed election cycle last year vying for one of two seats. Justices Tim Armstead and Evan Jenkins, who had been appointed to fill those seats until the special election, eventually won those seats.
"I have more time this time and I know certain places to go to focus and concentrate," Schwartz said. "I think money is an issue in politics and will be an issue in our judicial campaigns."
Schwartz said it was given the impression the elections would be non-partisan elections, but in reality, he doesn't think that’s what really happens.
"When a national party comes in and pours millions at the end of a campaign to focus on one or two candidates that they prefer, I don’t know how you call that non-partisan," Schwartz said. "I don’t know how you get an informed electorate on all the candidates that are available to choose from."
Schwartz said one or two candidates will have the resources to dominate the airwaves and portray a picture of themselves that may or may not be accurate.
"That’s not good for democracy and that’s not good for an informed electorate," Schwartz said. "I hope people look beyond a television ad and investigate more into the candidates."
Schwartz said he expects there to be a good number of candidates again and likely some of the same faces as was in the 2018 special election.
"I’ve known these people and there are some really good people willing to run," Schwartz said. "I think that’s good. We need more people involved and I give credit to anybody, including the current justices sitting on the Supreme Court, who run for office because you open yourself to scrutiny and it takes a certain amount of bravery to step up and do it."
Schwartz said he wants to set an example for his sons.
"I hope what I’m doing sets an example for my boys—I have a 22-year-old and a 16-year-old," Schwartz said. "I hope this shows them that they can participate and make a difference."
Schwartz said he's going to give it his best to win a seat on the court.
"I’m going to give my best shot to win, and I’ll certainly have a say in the issues that I think need to be raised to have a better system—a more fair system," Schwartz said. "That’s my goal—for the average person in West Virginia when he or she goes to court that they feel they got a fair shake—that they feel they had their say and that the system, even if it doesn’t go their way, was fair to them. I don’t know that the typical West Virginian thinks that right now."
Armstead, Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit, Kanawha Family Court Judge Jim Douglas and Supreme Court Justice John Hutchinson have already filed pre-candidacy papers to run in the 2020 election.