CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State Election Commission members voted unanimously Thursday to recommend that a public campaign financing pilot project for state Supreme Court elections be made permanent.
"You could say it exceeded beyond most people's expectations, since the candidate that received [public financing] money was elected," commissioner Gary Collias said.
In 2012, then-Supreme Court clerk Allen Loughry was the only candidate to participate in the pilot project, receiving about $363,000 in public campaign financing for his successful bid for election to the high court.
The pilot project generated considerable publicity, particularly after the Supreme Court struck down a provision in the law to give Loughry additional matching funds based on opponents' campaign spending as unconstitutional.
"This was kind of a shake-down cruise, because this was an initiative that wasn't tried before," commission chairman Robert Rupp said of the pilot project.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said she wholeheartedly supports making the pilot project a permanent campaign funding option for Supreme Court candidates, saying it provides the opportunity for "new voices" to seek public office.
Commissioners will finalize a report to the Legislature Feb. 12 -- a day before the start of the 2013 regular session -- recommending that public campaign financing for Supreme Court candidates be continued as a permanent program, and recommending that the funding available to participating candidates be increased.