CHARLESTON — Two prominent Republican politicians on Tuesday won election to a pair of West Virginia Supreme Court positions vacated by justices caught up in a scandal over spending by the court.
Former House of Delegates speaker Tim Armstead garnered about 26 percent of the vote among 10 candidates vying for the Division 1 court position. His closest challenger, circuit judge Joanna Tabit, had about 22 percent of the votes in that race.
In the Division 2 contest, also involving 10 candidates, former U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins of Huntington received about 36 percent of the vote. Next closest in that race for an unexpired term that runs through 2024 was attorney Dennise Smith, with about 14 percent of the vote.
Both Jenkins and Armstead were appointed this fall by GOP Gov. Jim Justice to fill the seats until the election.
Armstead was running against seven attorneys and two circuit judges to complete the term of retired Justice Menis Ketchum. Other candidates include circuit judges Tabit and Chris Wilkes as well as attorneys Harry Bruner Jr., Robert Carlton, Ronald Hatfield, Mark Hunt, Hiram Lewis IV, D.C. Offutt Jr. and Jeff Woods. The term runs through 2020.
Jenkins was vying for the position held by retired Justice Robin Davis. Another well-known political figure running for Davis' unexpired term was Democratic former state Senate President Jeff Kessler. Six other candidates are attorneys, one is a circuit judge and one is a family court judge. They are circuit Judge Will Thompson, family court Judge Jim Douglas and attorneys Robert J. Frank, Brenden Long, Jim O'Brien, Marty "Redshoes" Sheehan, William Schwartz and Smith.
Judicial elections in West Virginia became nonpartisan in 2016, but the court's turmoil stirred political attacks. Some Democrats argued that the court's shakeup was a power grab by the Republican-led Legislature.
The House of Delegates in August impeached Davis and Justices Allen Loughry, Beth Walker and Margaret Workman over questions involving lavish office renovations that evolved into accusations of corruption, incompetence and neglect of duty. Ketchum resigned before the impeachment vote to avoid trial. Davis retired immediately after the House voted to impeach her.