UPDATE (1:20 PM, Nov. 5, 2022): A controversial political campaign advertisement in West Virginia has now been altered.
West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Tim Armstead’s image in the ad was blurred at the request of Justice Armstead himself. This action was to remove any appearance that he endorses Senate candidate Mike Stuart. Also, Saturday the WV Secretary of State’s office said the original ad did not violate any state elections, laws but the office could not speak to the issue of whether the ad violated the State Judicial Code of Conduct or any State Bar standards.
Armstead made no such endorsement and is not allowed to by the West Virginia Judicial Code.
An earlier version of this story is below:
CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — A huge legal controversy erupted over a political campaign ad in West Virginia.
This comes just four days before Election Day. But, you have to wonder if this complaint is too late in the process. After all, thousands of people already voted early in person or by absentee ballot.
State Senator Ron Stollings, a Boone County Democrat, is the incumbent in District 7. The district includes parts of Boone, Logan, Lincoln and Kanawha counties. Stollings is being challenged by the former U.S. Attorney, Republican Mike Stuart.
In the issue at hand, a Stuart campaign advertisement shows him standing with West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Tim Armstead, which critics say could be interpreted as Armstead’s endorsement of Stuart. But, judges and justices are not allowed to endorse any political candidate.
“Stuarts’ use of Supreme Court Justice Tim Armstead in his ad, is not only illegal, but it’s also highly unethical and greatly risks the integrity of the West Virginia Supreme Court,” said State Sen. Ron Stollings.
For his part, Mike Stuart disagreed saying, “No, it’s a non-story by a desperate career liberal politician. I have thousands of pictures with lots of people.”
But 13 News also reached out to Supreme Court Justice Tim Armstead, who cited the State Code of Judicial Conduct saying, “I am not permitted to, and am not, publicly endorsing any candidate, in any race.”
Justice Armstead says he asked Stuart to remove the photo. Late Friday night, Stuart notified 13 News that the image of Armstead was indeed blurred in the ad, so Armstead could not be identified.