CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Spending in West Virginia's Supreme Court race neared $3.5 million two weeks ahead of the general election, topping what candidates spent in 2008 when two seats on the court were also on the ballot, campaign finance filings show.
Republican Allen Loughry led this year's field during the Sept. 24-Oct. 21 reporting period, spending spent $178,378. Democrat Tish Chafin followed with $123,627. Justice Robin Davis spent $90,270, but also had the largest balance among the four with $77,198 as of Oct. 21. Circuit Judge John Yoder rounded out the field with $12,292 expended. A Republican, Yoder had slightly more cash on hand than Loughry, with $12,039, while Chafin reported $25,332.
The latest filings are the last before the Nov. 6 election. They show the four hopefuls raised relatively modest amounts during the four-week reporting period. Chafin, a recent State Bar president, attracted the most at $33,767. Loughry raised $21,850, while Davis and Yoder each received less than $15,000.
But the contest as of Monday had yet to attract attention from non-candidate groups and political action committees. Political parties and outside groups are helping to drive the spending on TV ads in several of the 14 other states holding judicial elections this year, according to a new review by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's law school and the nonpartisan Justice at Stake.
The review found $13.5 million devoted to court race TV ads nationwide as of Oct. 22. Non-candidates accounted for nearly 70 percent of the $8.9 million of that total that has been spent since Sept. 1, the review said.
West Virginia's two-seat race ranked seventh among the 15 states for TV ad spending, but third for the number of ads aired. Michigan's Supreme Court contest topped both categories.
Filings by the West Virginia candidates show Loughry has raised about $30,000 since the Supreme Court ruling Sept. 7 that he could not receive additional funding from a public financing pilot program. Loughry, a longtime Supreme Court law clerk, was the sole candidate to apply and qualify for the experimental program. It was created as an alternative to traditional fundraising and the accompanying concerns about the influence of campaign cash on the judiciary.
Loughry had sought "rescue" funds meant to help him from being outspent. But a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision, invoked by the state high court in September, concluded that such funding unconstitutionally deterred would-be contributors to opposing candidates or groups. The September ruling allowed Loughry to exit the program while keeping the $350,000 it had provided following the May primary.
Loughry has outraised his fellow Republican, Yoder, during the general election phase, but Davis and Chain have each attracted more than $200,000.
Spending by candidates during the 2008 election totaled $3.1 million, including that year's primary, while outside groups spent about $1 million on ads.