In every soccer World Cup, there’s the group stage where four teams play each other, with the top teams from the eight groups moving on to the knockout round of the tournament. Inevitably, the semi-random nature of drawing the groups forms what is referred to as a “group of death” — a group with four strong teams that all could be viewed as contenders for the cup.
West Virginia’s Division 2 Supreme Court race was the closest thing to a political “group of death” in recent memory. Four candidates, all uniquely qualified to serve on the court. One winner.
It was former legislator and longtime environmental attorney Bill Wooton who emerged victorious on election night, edging out Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit — whom the Gazette-Mail endorsed — by 6,194 votes out of more than 373,000 votes cast. Wooton wound up with 31% of the vote to Tabit’s 29%. Kanawha Family Court Judge Jim Douglas and Putnam County Assistant Prosecutor Kris Raynes, both stalwart contenders, snagged 20% of the vote each.
Wooton, Tabit and Douglas all ran for the Supreme Court in 2018, after the fallout of the spending scandal led to the attempted impeachment of the entire court, resulting in two resignations and former chief justice Allen Loughry sentenced to federal prison.
Everyone in Division 2 was a good candidate, and Wooton deserves congratulations. We believe he — like Tabit would have been — will be a de-politicizing element on a court that had three of its five members appointed by Gov. Jim Justice as a result of the mess two years ago.
Wooton has a record of putting people above politics and protecting and serving West Virginians, and we believe he’ll help restore public faith in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. We look forward to seeing him serve over the next 12 years.