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Putnam Family Court judge candidates spend big on themselves

By Ryan Quinn, Staff writer

In Putnam County’s May 13 primary, the Republican family court judge candidates were by far the biggest spenders — and much of the money was their own.

Candidates may contribute as much as they want to their own campaigns, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Post-primary campaign finance reports, which were due between May 26 and June 23, though not all came in on time, show victorious judge candidate Rick Witt, a local attorney who represents clients in family court, has spent about $36,200 and has nearly $10,000 left going into the general election. He has about $39,400 in outstanding loans he gave himself, though he can pay these off with others’ contributions in the future.

Deloris “Jeanie” Nibert, the incumbent whom Witt defeated, spent $29,000. She loaned herself $26,000 and gave her campaign $24,700 in May to help pay off the debt, according to her report.

David Hill, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary for family court judge, has raised and spent about $900.

Witt defeated Nibert 2,070 to 1,640. Witt and Hill will square off in the Nov. 4 general election for the judgeship, and the winner will take office once the election is certified.

Nibert, a former family court judge in Mason and Jackson counties, has been serving in the unexpired judge term since around January 2013, when the state Supreme Court appointed her to fill in for former judge William Watkins. The state Judicial Investigation Commission had charged him with delaying rulings, failing to enter domestic violence orders into the state’s tracking system and screaming and cursing at litigants.

The Supreme Court suspended Watkins without pay in March 2013 until the end of his term in 2016, and he resigned in November. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin then appointed Nibert to fill in until after the general election.

The winner of this year’s family court judge election will get to serve only through the end of Watkins’ term, Supreme Court spokeswoman Jennifer Bundy said, but he will get the chance in 2016 to run for a full eight-year term. Nibert said Wednesday she may run again then.

“I don’t think anybody really has complained about the job that I’ve done,” she said.

But Nibert said she may also return to private law practice and is considering another job, which she declined to name.

The next highest-spending race in the primary was incumbent county Commissioner Steve Andes’ re-election bid against Jerry Dials in the Republican primary. Andes, who almost doubled Dials’ vote count at 2,454 to 1,229 and faces no Democratic challenger in the general election, spent $7,900 and has about $900 going into November. Andes, who said he spent less than $1,000 of his own money, will take office Jan. 1 if he wins.

Dials spent about $4,300 and has $1,800 in outstanding loans to himself and contributed an additional $100 to his campaign.

In the only contested school board race, 16-year incumbent Dr. Craig Spicer spent $3,800 of his own money to defeat Diana McCallister, who spent about $400 from contributions that her filings don’t report the origins of. School board members are elected during the primary and started their four-year terms Tuesday.

Reach Ryan Quinn at

ryan.quinn@wvgazette.com

or 304-348-1254.


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