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Democrat Davis retains seat on high court, Republican Loughry also wins

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Democratic state Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis will keep her seat on the court and be joined by Republican Allen Loughry, one of the current court's law clerks.

Democrat Tish Chafin lost even after she put $1 million into her own campaign -- as did Republican Berkeley County Circuit Judge John Yoder, who spent less than $30,000 on the effort. There were two 12-year terms open on the court. Four ran in the general election. The two highest vote winners won a seat.

Loughry ran a persistently positive campaign featuring his son, Justus.

"I am deeply honored and humbled that the people of West Virginia have given me the opportunity to serve them on the West Virginia Supreme Court for a 12-year term," Loughry said. "I have said consistently through this campaign that judges should not be political and the judiciary will not be a political branch of government."

Though elected as a Republican, Loughry has changed parties twice in recent memory -- first from a Democrat to an independent, and then to a Republican.

 He's worked for several prominent Democrats and currently clerks with Justice Margaret Workman.

Loughry wrote a book on political corruption in West Virginia. In it, he noted the book -- which goes through a litany of publicly available accounts of corruption -- could prove problematic if he ever ran for public office.

Incidentally, the book mentions Chafin's husband -- Sen. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo -- in several places.

This year, Loughry was the only candidate to opt into a public financing pilot program, but the state Supreme Court struck down a key section of the law. Loughry was able to keep about $350,000 of public money for his campaign.

With Loughry on the bench, the state's high court will go from a 4-1 to a 3-2 Democratic majority. Justice Brent Benjamin is the other Republican. Democrat Justice Thomas McHugh is retiring.

Davis and Loughry will each have 12-year terms and a chance to leave a lasting mark on the court and the state.

Davis was first elected to the state's high court in 1996 to fill an unexpired term. She won a full, 12-year term in 2000. A former attorney in private practice, she used her personal wealth to finance her campaign.

Current Chief Justice Menis Ketchum has called Davis "the hardest working member of the court and really easy to work with."

In a telephone interview Tuesday night, Davis said she was ready to go to the office Wednesday morning.

"I will be in my office tomorrow and I look forward to putting my entire focus back on my work," Davis said.

The current court is calm, a notable mood given a raucous recent history.

A sign of that was the election watch party at Davis' house last night: four of the five sitting justices were there. Benjamin was not there, though he was invited and attended Davis' primary election watch party.

"Three of my colleagues were here and I think that sends a clear message in terms of what we think about each other," Davis said.

There were signals during the race -- public and private -- that some of the court's current members did not think highly of Chafin.

Ketchum dismissed one of Chafin's campaign platforms as "silly," for instance.

Chafin's loss is all the more striking for the effort she put into it, not to mention the $1 million. Her race was really a two-year campaign by her and the senator to see that she had a seat on the court.

But her campaign clearly saw problems in the final weeks. Chafin's campaign was the only one known to have gone decisively negative. A Chafin ad attacking her two Republican opponents aired in at least one TV market.

Her campaign was also the most expensive of the four.

Chafin's campaign spent about $1.4 million or, according to the most recent pre-election campaign finance filings -- $1 million of that came from her own bank account.

Davis' campaign spent about $1.3 million. Nearly $900,000 of that came from her own pocket.

Loughry spent about $430,000, the bulk of that being public money that came to him after he became the only candidate in the race to participate in a public financing pilot project.

Yoder raised less than $40,000 for his own election.



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