CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The only West Virginia Supreme Court candidate relying on public funds may not find out until September whether he can receive additional public dollars, following Friday rulings in a pair of dueling cases addressing the state's public financing pilot program.
The state Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments Sept. 4 -- just two months before the general election -- over candidate Allen Loughry's petition to compel the release of "rescue" funds.
U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin, meanwhile, set a Sept. 10 deadline for motions in a federal challenge that seeks to find the rescue funds unconstitutional.
West Virginia is experimenting with public financing in this year's two-seat Supreme Court race because of concerns about the influence of campaign cash on the judiciary. Rescue funds are supposed to help a candidate keep pace with traditionally funded opponents or independent groups.
The State Election Commission has so far balked at providing rescue funding to Loughry, in the wake of federal rulings that have targeted such provisions in Arizona and North Carolina public financing programs. But the commission has also agreed to defend West Virginia's provision in Loughry's case.
A Republican and longtime law clerk at the Supreme Court, Loughry argues that neither ruling strikes down West Virginia's provision. The nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's law school is helping to represent Loughry.
Mike Callaghan, a former Democratic Party chairman and state official, filed the U.S. District Court challenge. Callaghan echoes the federal rulings to argue that matching funds chill his right to contribute to his party's nominees in the race.
Loughry has intervened in Callaghan's challenge, and Callaghan filed to do the same in Loughry's case on Thursday. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on Callaghan's request next week.