This article originally provided by The Daily Mail

February 15, 2008

Beth Walker tries to explain ties to Don Blankenship in Supreme Court race

by Justin D. Anderson
Daily Mail Capitol Reporter

At least two candidates for the state Supreme Court - Beth Walker and Menis Ketchum -met with Massey Energy chief Don Blankenship prior to filing for the election this year.

But Walker is currently denying a report that she's been "in talks" with Blankenship about his support of her campaign.

And Blankenship, who spent millions of dollars in a successful attempt to unseat former Justice Warren McGraw, says he may or may not even get involved in anyone's campaign this year.

"I've talked to Beth, but I have not decided as to any involvement and will not do so until after the primary," Blankenship told the Daily Mail this week.

The Shepherdstown Observer, a monthly magazine, reported this month about Walker's association with Blankenship, and said the Charleston lawyer has been "in talks" with the coal executive about whether he would support her in the election.

Walker, the only Republican running for the court, said she's asking the magazine for a correction.

"Anytime that I believe that something's been attributed to me that I have not said, I'm certainly going to make an effort to have that corrected," Walker said.

"I think that probably suggesting that my campaign is limited to talking to one person is not accurate," she said.

Walker said Thursday that she did meet once with Blankenship at his Kentucky office several weeks before she officially announced her candidacy.

Walker said she doesn't recall who initiated the meeting. She said she spent most of the meeting talking about her views on the role of the court.

"I don't remember discussing support one way or another," Walker said.

Thomas Harding, publisher of the Shepherdstown Observer and author of the column in which the blurb appeared, said today his magazine is not running a correction. He said he instead plans to run a transcript of his interview with Walker.

"In the context of campaign finance, I asked her if she's spoken to him and she said yes," Harding said.

Walker said she has met and talked with many different voters and business representatives in the state about her interest in becoming a justice.

"I welcome support from any voter," Walker said. "Any person who has a stake in West Virginia's future."

Blankenship sparked controversy in 2004 when he waged an estimated $3 million campaign to unseat McGraw. Most observers say Blankenship's support helped Justice Brent Benjamin win victory that year over McGraw.

Justice Larry Starcher later said Blankenship's involvement in the race made him want to "puke" and he alluded to Benjamin's seat on the court being bought and paid for by Massey.

The recent surfacing of photos showing Blankenship and Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard together while vacationing in the Mediterranean has sparked more criticism of the court's independence.

Greg Thomas, a political consultant who has worked with Blankenship in past elections, said Blankenship met with Walker and Ketchum - a Democrat - and Cabell County Circuit Judge Dan O'Hanlon, another Democrat who was considering a Supreme Court run but didn't officially file for the election.

Thomas said both Ketchum and O'Hanlon initiated the meetings, but he said he wasn't sure about Walker.

"I think they were just trying to gauge whether (Blankenship is) going to get involved again or not," Thomas said.

Democrats Bob Bastress, Margaret Workman and Maynard also are running for election. Two seats are up for grabs on the court.

Contact writer Justin D. Anderson at or 348-4843.

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