Walker Wins First Nonpartisan Election to the W.Va. Supreme Court

May 11, 2016

Beth Walker, the newest justice elected to the W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals.
Credit Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After losing a close race in 2008, Morgantown attorney Beth Walker has come back to win the first nonpartisan election to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. She did it with substantial backing from outside groups.

Beth Walker and her immediate family watched the results from her lakeside home just outside Morgantown. She held a strong lead from the beginning but was hesitant to call the race until it was clear her lead wasn’t going to fade.

That’s when her phone began dinging steadily with texts and tweets of congratulations.

“I’m just so grateful to everyone who’s helped and all the voters of West Virginia who have obviously shown some trust and confidence in me being able to serve in the next twelve years on the Supreme Court,” Walker said.

This year is the first time judges were elected on a nonpartisan basis. It’s also the first time the Supreme Court candidates were decided in the Primary Election.

Walker says she supports the nonpartisan election of Supreme Court judges and plans to carry out her term in a similar way.

“The entire campaign we’ve talked about the importance of the rule of law," she noted, "and that’s going to be my first priority is that and taking politics out of the court. You know, we’ve made an excellent step forward I think as West Virginia electing judges as a nonpartisan election, and I plan to take that onto the court with the commitment to the best I can, at least as one justice to take politics out of the court.”

It may have been a nonpartisan election, but partisan groups poured money into TV ads supporting Walker and attacking fellow candidates Darrell McGraw and Bill Wooton. The Republican State Leadership Committee – Judicial Fairness Initiative and other groups dropped about $2 million on the campaign.

Walker beat current justice Brent Benjamin who released a statement saying, “This race had unique difficulties for the candidates. To prevail was not an easy thing.”

Former Attorney General Darrell McGraw came in at a distant second. He declined to comment on the results.

Walker is now the third woman to ever serve on the state's highest court. She joins Justices Margaret Workman and Robin Davis – meaning the state’s Supreme Court has a female majority for the first time.