Candidate for magistrate in Fayette County cleared of deliberate wrongdoing, ordered to update campaign materials

FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WOAY) – A Fayette County judge has ordered a candidate for magistrate to update his campaign materials to more clearly reflect who he is but declined to remove him from the ballot. The ruling comes after another candidate took legal action, claiming that voters were being deliberately misled.

Richard “Rick” Lee Pannell, Jr., is running for magistrate in Fayette County’s second division. One of his opponents is Amanda Davis, who recently filed a civil complaint to remove him from the ballot for what she alleged was intentionally trying to trick voters into thinking he was someone he was not.

According to documents filed in court, Davis alleged that Pannell’s campaign materials and ballot name deceived voters into thinking that he was actually his father, Richard “Rick” Pannell, Sr., the incumbent magistrate for Division 2.

Pannell’s legal name is Richard Lee Pannell, Jr. His name was supposed to appear on the ballot as Richard “Rick” Pannell. That’s the same name his father used when he last ran in 2020.

Davis’s lawyers cited campaign materials, which she claimed were previously used by Pannell’s father, and a post published on an online news source.

Pannell’s counsel pushed back against Davis’s claims, saying the attempt to remove him from the ballot was dangerous for democracy and set a dangerous precedent.

In his decision, Judge Paul Blake agreed that the issue could be confusing for voters but didn’t think that it amounted to deliberate deception. He said that Davis failed to prove that Pannell was intentionally committing fraud.

However, Blake agreed that Pannell’s campaign name did create confusion for voters. To remedy the issue, Blake ruled that Pannell be identified on the ballot as Richard “Rick” Pannell, Jr., to make it clear to voters who they are voting for.

Further, Pannell needs to alter his print and digital campaign materials to clearly “represent that he is a Jr., so as to avoid confusion among the voting public.”

Both candidates issued statements on their official campaign social media accounts.

Pannell said he accepts the change and never intended to cause confusion. He said his name as it appeared on the ballot was deemed acceptable by the Secretary of State and county clerk.

He called the lawsuit “frivolous.”

“Those of you who know me are aware that I never pretended to be my father. Several of my campaign materials include my picture, as well as my wife and our children. I have always campaigned as myself and not my father. The only thing that upsets me is the amount of work this places on the County Clerk’s office with just a short amount of time before the election. I appreciate your continued support for magistrate of Fayette County,” Pannell said.

He further asked his supporters to add “Jr.” to his campaign signs that have already been distributed.

Davis also issued a statement, saying that her legal action aimed to protect election integrity.

“A magistrate’s primary duty is to uphold the law, even when it’s unpopular. It’s crucial that all individuals are treated equally under the law, and that Lady Justice remains impartial,” she said. “The court found that Richard ‘Rick’ Pannell’s ballot name and campaign materials were misleading and in violation of W. Va. Code. Fayette County deserves better, and voting for Davis as Magistrate is the only way to ensure that!”

Newswatch has reached out to both candidates for additional statements. At the time of publication, neither have returned that request.

Susie Worley-Jenkins and Shawn L. Campbell are also running for magistrate in Fayette County’s second division.

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