Incumbents Tim Armstead and John Hutchison have won seats on the state Supreme Court and are likely to be joined by former legislator Bill Wooton.
Wooton led Joanna Tabit narrowly with some votes still out — and many others likely to be reviewed during canvassing because of the many absentee ballots cast in the Primary Election.
After midnight, the margin was about 4,000 votes.
“I’m just very pleased and very excited,” Wooton said on MetroNews’ Primary Election coverage.
“I believe very strongly the Legislature makes public policy. The court’s role is to call balls and strikes.”
Armstead, who will serve his first, full 12-year term, said he thinks citizens want to feel like they can trust the court.
“Looking forward to continue to work,” Armstead said on MetroNews’ Primary Election coverage.
The Supreme Court races come just two years after a scandal over misspending rocked the court, leading to the resignation of three justices.
The court’s five members serve 12-year terms, so the results of this election could shape the newly-formed court for years to come.
And because judicial elections are nonpartisan in West Virginia, there is no general election. This was voters’ only chance to decide who deserves these long terms.
Two of the seats on the ballot are for full terms, including one where no incumbent is running because current Justice Margaret Workman is leaving after her second stint.
The third is the remaining four years on the term of former Justice Allen Loughry, who was convicted on federal fraud charges.
Division One included current Chief Justice Tim Armstead, a former House of Delegates speaker who was first appointed to the court during the period of turmoil; former Justice Richard Neely, who was the youngest justice in the nation when he was elected in 1973; and Circuit Judge David Hummel of Marshall County, who boasts nuts and bolts courtroom experience.
Armstead had 41 percent of the vote to Neely’s 36 percent and Hummel’s 23 percent.
Division Two had no incumbent because of the retirement of Justice Margaret Workman, who is departing the court after concluding her second full term.
Competing for the seat were Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit, Kanawha Family Court Judge Jim Douglas, Putnam County Assistant Prosecutor Kris Raynes and lawyer and longtime legislator Bill Wooton.
With most votes in, Wooton had 31 percent of the vote to Tabit’s 30 percent. Douglas and Raynes each had 20 percent.
Division Three, the unexpired term, included current Justice John Hutchison, Circuit Judge Lora Dyer of Jackson County, and William Schwartz, a longtime Kanawha County attorney.
Hutchison had 39 percent of the vote, Dyer 35 percent and Schwartz 25 percent.
The Supreme Court races, particularly the first division, were the subject of significant spending by political action committees.
Republican State Leadership Committee-Judicial Fairness Initiative reported spending $1,069,514.62 during the period, mostly in opposition to Neely.
Another political action committee, ReSet West Virginia, reported spending $790,629.83, mostly in opposition to Armstead.