Three West Virginia Supreme Court hopefuls, a couple of Republican challengers to Gov. Jim Justice and a former statewide officeholder looking to regain her seat were among those who officially filed to be on the 2020 ballot on Monday, the first day for candidates to do so.
Former state senator Richard Ojeda, who gave up his legislative seat in 2019 to pursue a 2020 presidential bid that didn’t gain any traction, filed to run for the seat held by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. Ojeda was the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House in 2018, but ultimately lost to Rep. Carol Miller, a Republican from Cabell County.
Ojeda was joined by Paula Jean Swearengin, who lost a Democratic primary race to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in 2018.
Statewide candidates could file at the Secretary of State’s Office at the state Capitol or at the office’s business hubs in Clarksburg and Martinsburg. Most local candidates can file at their county clerk’s office.
The first candidate to arrive at the Capitol on Monday was former secretary of state Natalie Tennant, who arrived at 7:30 a.m., an hour before candidates were able to file.
Tennant, a Democrat who served two terms and lost a close election to current Secretary of State Mac Warner in 2016, said she wanted to show her enthusiasm for the job.
“I’ve always loved public service, and it’s not a secret I love West Virginia, too,” Tennant said. “I may have been out of the public eye for a little bit, but I was still working for voting rights and still doing public service.”
Joining her in filing early Monday were current Supreme Court Justice John Hutchison, who was appointed by the governor last year, and Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit, who came in second to current Justice Tim Armstead in a multi-candidate Supreme Court race in 2018.
Tabit is running for the seat held by Margaret Workman, whose 12-year term is up at the end of this year. Armstead has said he will run for a full 12-year term, and is being challenged by former Supreme Court justice Richard Neely, who also filed as a candidate Monday. A Charleston attorney, Neely served 22 years on the bench, retiring in 1995 to return to public practice.
Hutchison, a longtime circuit judge from Raleigh County, is running to complete the final four years of former justice Allen Loughry’s term. Loughry resigned in 2018 after being convicted of wire and mail fraud, among other charges, in federal court. That term runs through 2024.
Two former state officials filed to challenge Justice in the Republican primary, including his former commerce secretary, Woody Thrasher. A Harrison County resident, he was president of The Thrasher Group, the largest engineering firm in the state.
Like Justice, Thrasher was a Democrat who changed his party registration recently.
Former Berkeley County delegate Mike Folk was the first person to file for governor Monday morning. An airline pilot, Folk served a sometimes controversial tenure in the House of Delegates from 2013 to 2018, when he lost his bid for a seat in the state Senate.
Another Republican, Shelby Jean Fitzhugh of Martinsburg, also filed to run for governor.
Three people filed to run for Congress on Monday. Besides Ojeda and Swearengin entering the U.S. Senate race on the Democratic side, Republican Russell Siegel of Lewisburg filed for the race for the 3rd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, currently held by Republican Rep. Carol Miller.
In West Virginia races, state Treasurer John Perdue filed for reelection. Perdue, the only Democrat left among statewide officeholders, has been treasurer since 1997.
Two Democrats filed to challenge Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey: Sam Brown Petsonk, a lawyer who has represented coal miners and other workers in wage, bankruptcy and health disputes; and Isaac Sponaugle, a Pendleton County delegate who has sued Justice over the governor’s refusal to live in Charleston.
Democrat Dave Miller, of Preston County, filed to run for agriculture commissioner. Miller is a former deputy agriculture commissioner, WVU Extension Service director, state legislator, and dairy and beef farmer. The office is currently held by Republican Kent Leonhardt.
Among several legislative candidates to file Monday were former House of Delegates Finance Committee chairman Eric Nelson of Charleston. He is running for the seat now held by Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, who is not running for reelection.
Incumbent Kanawha delegates Mike Pushkin and Dean Jeffries filed for reelection, as did challengers Trevor Morris, Jim Barach, Bill Johnson, John Luoni, Dayton Beard, Nick Withrow and David “Woody” Holmes.