W.Va. Democrats didn't want Independent's campaign info at dinner

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 9, 2011, 9:38am


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - West Virginia Supreme Court candidate Allen Loughry says he was told to remove his campaign materials from the state's annual Jefferson-Jackson Celebration Dinner this weekend.

Loughry, an Independent running for the Court, said he was asked by West Virginia Democratic Party Executive Director Derek Scarbro to remove his pamphlets or they would be "thrown in the trash."

"I have a tremendous number of friends who are Democrats. I worked for Gov. (Gaston) Caperton, was a coordinator in Bill Clinton's presidential campaign, and Robert C. Byrd wrote the forward to my book. But I am very disappointed in the state Democratic Party and its decision today," Loughry said.

Democrats from across the state gathered at the Charleston Civic Center on Saturday for the annual fundraiser.

The dinner, this year headlined by U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, is considered the state Democratic Party's biggest event.

Loughry said he talked to party officials before the dinner and was told he could distribute his materials. But that changed when he arrived to distribute his pamphlets, he said.

"I have helped organize this dinner many times in the past and the Democratic Party I remember would have welcomed Independent candidates," he said.

But Scarbro said the dinner is strictly a partisan event for the party's candidates.

"We do that to support them," he said. "We can only support people that are running on our ticket."

"Mr. Loughry is choosing to run under a different label. It's that simple."

Scarbro also said Loughry's claims that he would throw his materials in the trash if they weren't removed are "completely off-base."

"I never used those words," Scarbro said.

"I did ask for him not to put his signs and brochures out. But there was no discussion of 'garbage' or 'trash.'"

But Loughry noted that the Democratic Party allows Independent voters to vote in its primary.

"This is the very reason why West Virginia needs an independent judiciary and to remove politics from its court system," he said.

Loughry, an author and law clerk for the state Supreme Court of Appeals, announced last month he was running for the Court in 2012.

A lawyer with four law degrees from American University, University of London and Capital University, Loughry also studied law at Oxford University.

He has worked as a lawyer for the state Supreme Court for the past eight years.

Prior to working at the Court, Loughry was a senior assistant attorney general, arguing more than 20 cases before the state's high court.

Loughry told the West Virginia Record in an interview last month that in order to have a justice system that isn't influenced by the legislative and executive branches -- or by pressure from special interest groups -- the state must have an independent judiciary.

Loughry said people want politicians to belong to a political party because they want their representatives to argue philosophical ideas. But those same people want their judiciary to be independent, he said.

"I want this candidacy to change that idea in West Virginia," he said. "It's time. We're one of a handful of states left that have purely partisan elections. It's time for an independent judiciary."

Loughry is the only Independent to announce his candidacy for the Court so far.

Justice Robin Jean Davis and Tish Chafin -- both Democrats -- are running for the two open seats, as well as Republican Judge John Yoder.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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