During oral arguments Tuesday, Loughry's attorney, Alan Skaggs of the Brennan Center for Justice, had argued that while the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned matching fund provisions in legislative and executive branch elections as being unconstitutional, the court has recognized there is a compelling interest to assure fair and impartial judicial elections.
While recognizing that as a laudable goal, the court ruled that the current public financing pilot project could not achieve its intended goal since only one of the four candidates on the ballot, Loughry, is using public financing.
"The matching funds do not eliminate the appearance that the three candidates who accept campaign contributions may be biased or partial toward their contributors," the court ruled.
"The government matching funds serve no other purpose than "leveling the playing field" between one publicly funded candidate and the three privately financed candidates," the ruling stated.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Loughry said he is evaluating his options going forward, and applauded the court for its "careful consideration" of the issue.
"While it is not the resolution I had hoped for, I am encouraged that the high court recognized the unique circumstances of this case, and is allowing me to begin immediately raising money for my campaign," Loughry said. "The campaign financing project has never been about my campaign, but about the ability of the state to hold fair judicial elections."
He said he strongly believes he still can win election to one of the two seats on the high court in November. Incumbent Justice Robin Davis and Charleston lawyer Letitia Neese Chafin, both Democrats, and Republican Circuit Judge John Yoder of Jefferson County also are running.
Davis and fellow Justices Margaret Workman and Brent Benjamin recused themselves from the case. They were replaced by Circuit Judges Christopher Wilkes of Berkeley County, James Mazzone of Ohio County and John Marks of Harrison County, who joined Ketchum and Justice Thomas McHugh in the unanimous decision.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.