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Final campaign finance reports for the June 9 primary reveal money leaders

CHARLESTON — Candidates for statewide races have eight days to influence voters, and recent campaign finance reports some have more money than others to help accomplish this task.

The 2020 Primary report, covering the period between April 1 and May 24, was due at the end of last week. The West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office is responsible for electronic campaign finance reports for statewide, legislative, and judicial races for state Supreme Court of Appeals, circuit court judges, and family court judges

The report, which would have been turned in by campaigns to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office after the original May 12 primary election date, provides a snapshot into the financial condition of campaigns going into the Tuesday primary.

The primary election was moved from May to June by executive order of Gov. Jim Justice due to the coronavirus pandemic. Early voting is taking place across the state until Saturday. Voters can use the coronavirus as an excuse to request an absentee ballot, but the deadline to request an absentee ballot is today. The application can be downloaded at GoVoteWV.com.

RACE FOR GOVERNOR

In the Republican primary for governor, Justice led in campaign donations over the 54-day period. The Democrat-turned-Republican governor received $52,740 in campaign contributions during the 2020 Primary reporting period, bringing him to $629,483 donations election year-to-date.

Justice, the state’s billionaire businessman, loaned his campaign $1.5 million. Justice also has $188,816 in unpaid bills to various venders — including Justice-owned properties, such as the Greenbrier Resort — bringing his total campaign debt to $1.7 million. Justice has spent $2.1 million on his campaign year-to-date, leaving him with $50,541 in cash-on-hand. The Justice campaign declined to comment for this story.

Former Berkeley County delegate and airline pilot Mike Folk had the second best campaign haul, bringing in $26,982 during the reporting period. Year-to-date contribution were $118,011, with Folk loaning his campaign $182,100. Total campaign expenditures came to $240,560, leaving Folk with $14,408 in cash-on-hand. A comment from Folk was not available.

Woody Thrasher, the engineer and former Commerce Department secretary to Justice before being asked to resign, only brought in $16,796 for the reporting period, adding to his year-to-date donations of $452,693. Most of Thrasher’s campaign funding has come from loans, with a grand total of $3.5 million of his own money in the race. Thrasher also had the largest receipt of expenditures totaling $3.9 million. Thrasher has $27,816 in cash-on-hand during the final week of the race.

“We have been laser-focused on victory from day one, and we are making sure West Virginians now cast their ballots for the conservative businessman who shares their values and knows how to create the opportunities that will allow our kids to succeed here at home,” Thrasher said in a statement.

In the Democratic primary for governor, Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango edged out community organizer Stephen Smith in campaign donations for the reporting period. Salango, an attorney and businessman, brought in $140,964 in donations during the 54-day period compared to Smith’s $136,633.

“We have the momentum and the outpouring of support from West Virginians has allowed our campaign to get Ben’s message out,” said Grant Herring, Salango’s campaign manager. “We are peaking at the most critical time when voters are making their decision about which candidate is best equipped to get things done for West Virginia families.”

Smith — who announced his campaign 20 months ago — still leads in election year-to-date donations with $917,443 in mostly small-dollar contributions compared to Salango’s haul of $715,627. Smith has taken out no loans and has no campaign debt, while Salango has loaned his campaign $500,000. Smith also has more cash-on-hand with $111,718, having only spent $779,225. Salango has spent $1.01 million and has $100,630 in cash-on-hand.

“At the final fundraising report before the election, we beat our millionaire and billionaire opponents at their own game,” said Katey Lauer, campaign manager for Smith. “When we pledged not to take corporate PAC money, the wealthy Good Old Boys Club told us we could never compete in fundraising. Thousands of West Virginians proved them wrong. We’re ahead.”

Trailing Smith and Salango in fundraising was Boone County doctor and state Sen. Ron Stollings, who raised $20,865 during the period and $246,098 in year-to-date contributions. Stollings loaned his campaign $40,000, spent $251,993, and has $33,242 in cash-on-hand. A request for comment from the Stollings campaign was not returned.

OTHER STATEWIDE RACES

Republican two-term Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has no primary challengers. His Democratic challengers include Beckley public interest attorney Sam Brown Petsonk and Pendleton County Del. Isaac Sponaugle.

Petsonk, who has campaigned the longest, brought in $33,870 during the reporting period for a grand total of $212,329 in mostly small-dollar donations. Petsonk loaned his campaign $75,000, spent $190,559, and has $46,464 in cash-on-hand. Sponaugle, who entered the race five months ago, raised $22,510 for the reporting period for a total of $69,485 in year-to-date donations. Sponaugle loaned his campaign $100,000, spent $41,889, and has $127,596 in cash-on-hand.

State Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt is running for a second term as the state’s top farmer, but he has a primary challenger in Cabell County farmer Roy Ramey. Leonhardt has significantly outraised Ramey, bringing in $12,975 for the period and $151,092 in total contributions. Leonhardt has spent $66,534 and has $83,162 in cash-on-hand. Ramey has only raised a total of $3,580 year-to-date with $1,040 in donations for the period. Ramey loaned his campaign $500, spent $2,254, and has $976 in cash-on-hand.

There are three Democrats in the primary for agriculture commissioner, including Monongalia County state Sen. Bob Beach and former deputy commissioner of agriculture Dave Miller. Beach raised $4,100 during the reporting period for a year-to-date total of $28,096. Beach has spent $21,404 and has $4,273 in cash-on-hand. Miller raised $135 during the period and has $3,960 in year-to-date donations. After spending $3,906, Miller had $55 in cash-on-hand.

WEST VIRGINIA SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS

The June 9 primary will decide the winners of three seats on the non-partisan state Supreme Court.

In Division 1, Chief Justice Tim Armstead is seeking a full 12-year term after winning a special election in 2018. Armstead raised $35,259 during the reporting period for a total of $166,751 in year-to-date donations and no loans or campaign debt. After spending $10,989, Armstead has $151,784 in cash on hand.

Armstead is being challenged by Marshall County Circuit Court Judge David Hummel and former state Supreme Court justice Richard Neely. Hummel raised $27,100 during the period, giving him $144,414 in year-to-date donations. The Hummel campaign spent $90,217, leaving him with $21,244 in cash-on-hand.

Neely only raised $14,225 during the period for a total of $101,103 in year-to-date donations. Of the three, Neely is the only one who loaned his campaign money, writing a check for $501,866. After spending $586,553, Neely has $12,736 in cash-on-hand.

In Division 2, the winner will fill the seat of Justice Margaret Workman who declined to seek another term. Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit leads in the money race, raising $68,825 for the period and $336,565 year-to-date. Tabit loaned her campaign $15,000, spent $77,471, and has $271,984 in cash-on-hand.

Her closest competitor in fundraising is Putnam County Assistant Prosecutor Kris Raynes with $16,541 in donations for the period and $40,512 in total donations. After spending $24,829, Raynes has $9,336 in cash-on-hand. Former Raleigh County state senator Bill Wooten raised $5,701 for the period and $11,451 total. After putting in $456,571 of his own money, Wooten spent $474,217 and has $1,204 in cash-on-hand. Kanawha County Family Court Judge Jim Douglas raised $849 during the period and $4,061 total. Douglas loaned his campaign $105,925, spent $83,657, and has $26,329 in cash-on-hand.

In the Division 3 special election to fill the remaining four years of former justice Allen Loughry’s term, the man who was appointed to replace him — former Raleigh County Circuit Court judge John Hutchison — leads in fundraising even after losing several union endorsements after he sided with the majority of the Supreme Court in upholding the state’s Right to Work law. Justice Hutchison raised $33,146 for the reporting period for a total of $280,997 in year-to-date donations. After loaning his campaign $15,000, Hutchison spent $249,126 and has $44,979 in cash-on-hand.

Hutchison is being challenged by Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lora Dyer and Charleston attorney Bill Schwartz. Dyer raised $2,100 during the period and $14,656 year-to-date. She loaned her campaign $762, spent $12,520, and has $2,902 in cash-on-hand. Schwartz has raised no money for his campaign. After loaning his campaign $100,000, Schwartz spent $23,011 and has $76,989 in cash-on-hand.

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