WHEELING - Republican candidate John Yoder believes geography could be the deciding factor in his race for a seat on the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals this year.
Yoder noted he is the only candidate among the four running for state Supreme Court this year who doesn't reside in Charleston. Two will be elected from among Republicans Yoder and Allen Loughry, and Democrats Letitia Chafin and Justice Robin Jean Davis.
Among sitting justices, four of five on the court are from Charleston, he said. Davis and Justices Brent Benjamin, Margaret Workman and Thomas McHugh are all Charleston residents, while Justice Menis Ketchum lives in Huntington.
"My position is we need some geographical diversity on the court," Yoder said. "We don't need all people from Charleston. It's not the Supreme Court of Charleston. It's the Supreme Court of West Virginia. ...
"I've found that for a lot of people, the credentials - and I feel I have good credentials - are not as important as the geography," he said.
He said he also is the only candidate for state Supreme Court who has worked in all three branches of government.
Yoder, a resident of Harpers Ferry in the Eastern Panhandle, presently is supervising judge for the 23rd Judicial Circuit in Morgan County. He also served two non-consecutive terms in the West Virginia Senate - from 1992-1996, and from 2004-2008.
From 1980-83, Yoder was a Reagan appointee working for the Department of Justice as director of the forfeiture office, criminal division. Before this, he worked at the U.S. Supreme Court first as a fellow, and later as special assistant to Chief Justice Warren Berger.
Yoder believes both his experience and Eastern Panhandle residence could help him overcome more well-financed opponents.
"In 2010, I ran for state Supreme Court," he said. "Justice McHugh spent close to $300,000 - he was an incumbent and very popular. I spent $6,000 and got 49.2 percent of the vote. ... I have demonstrated I can run a credible race and win without the big money - but I do need to get more money to get my message out. I don't downplay that, but I've always run low-budget campaigns."