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Supreme Court candidate considering legal options after public funding halted

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Denied $144,471 in public financing matching funds Tuesday by the state Elections Commission, state Supreme Court candidate Allen Loughry said he is still weighing legal options on the matter.

"We are currently discussing all options with counsel," he said.

Loughry said he is also planning a response to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Wednesday seeking to strike down the so-called "rescue" fund provision of the state pilot project for public campaign financing for state Supreme Court candidates.

Loughry, a Republican and the only one of four general election candidates to participate in the public financing option, received $350,000 of public funding for the general election in March.

Under the pilot legislation, he may qualify for up to $400,000 in additional "rescue" funds as opponents' campaign expenditures exceed certain thresholds.

Last week, Justice Robin Davis filed a disclosure indicating her re-election campaign had spent $494,471 between May 9 and June 30, exceeding the first threshold of $420,000, and technically making Loughry eligible for a supplemental payment of $144,471.

However, in a 2-2 deadlock Tuesday<co >, the Elections Commission failed to authorize the funding.

Commissioner Gary Collias, a Charleston lawyer and Republican, argued that it would be improper to disperse the funds in light of a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. In that case, the court ruled that an Arizona public campaign financing law providing rescue payments to match spending by privately funded candidates violated the free speech rights of those candidates.

On Wednesday, Charleston lawyer and former state Democratic Party chairman Michael Callaghan filed a petition in U.S. District Court asking the court to strike down the rescue funding provisions in the West Virginia law on the same grounds.

Loughry has argued the court's ruling on the Arizona law, which provided public financing for executive and legislative branch candidates, has no bearing on the West Virginia pilot project, which is limited to state Supreme Court candidates.

Loughry said he intends to file a response in that case, in addition to a lawsuit in either state or federal court seeking to compel the Election Commission to release the supplemental funds.

"I want this issue resolved as quickly as possible, so I can get on with my campaign," he said.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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