CHARLESTON, W. Va. - After constant urging, Charleston attorney Dan Greear has decided not to run for a circuit judge seat and attempt instead to become the West Virginia's top lawyer.
Greear, a former member of the House of Delegates, said Friday he will seek the Republican nomination for Attorney General. He had filed pre-candidacy papers indicating a future campaign for Kanawha Circuit Judge.
"Becoming a circuit judge has always been a goal of mine," Greear said. "But after receiving phone call after phone call urging me to seek the Office of Attorney General, (wife) Amy and I decided now was the time to take on a statewide race.
"This race is as critical to any to the future of West Virginia."
Greear said he received support from friends, family and state GOP officials. Morgantown attorney Hiram Lewis and Teresa Helmick, an attorney at the Charleston branch of Steptoe & Johnson, have filed pre-candidacy papers and have until midnight Saturday to make a final decision on their campaigns.
Whoever emerges from that crowd would take on incumbent Darrell McGraw, seeking election to a fifth term. In 2004, he barely defeated Lewis, as both statistically earned 50 percent of the vote in the closest Attorney General's race in state history.
Critics of McGraw will point out that the federal government is planning to withhold nearly $5 million in Medicaid funding because of a pair of McGraw settlements.
McGraw's office has admitted it structured a 2004 $10 million settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma in a manner that prevented the government from receiving its share. The federal government provides 73 cents of every dollar the State spends on Medicaid.
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare said it will withhold $4.1 million because of the settlement, and another $634,000 for a similar settlement. The State is appealing the Purdue Pharma settlement.
McGraw recently told the Legislature "sharper pencils than mine" can figure out how to fix that potential hole in the budget, and that while in office he has secured $2 billion from lawsuits.
Private practice attorneys made more than $3 million representing the State in the Purdue Pharma suit.
"This race will draw a sharp contrast between sound representation of our state and the recklessness with which the current Attorney General has run the office," Greear said. "I will run the office effectively and with the utmost integrity. I am here to represent the people of the state, not to make private, wealthy trial attorneys even wealthier."
McGraw says most of the criticism of his office has been initiated by business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which owns the West Virginia Record. A CMS letter to the State included a quote from a story in the Record.
"We're not talking about a free lunch," he said. "Somebody has to pay. These people are the people we sued for $2 billion. The national Chamber makes this claim, and the federal government responds to their allegations."
Greear graduated third in his class from West Virginia University's law school in 1992 and was elected to the House of Delegates in 1995, serving two years. He currently works at Kesner, Kesner & Bramble.
He said that he hopes to collect $1 million quickly.
"The campaign will be watched not only across the state, but across the country," Greear said. "My experience as a litigator and as a Delegate will allow me to effectively serve the people of West Virginia and return the Office to the respectability it deserves."