Four years after considering a potential U.S. Senate bid, former longtime Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe leader Ralph Baxter Jr. is pondering running on the Democratic ticket for a West Virginia seat in Congress.
The Wheeling News-Register reported Saturday that Baxter could challenge Rep. David McKinley, a Republican who since 2011 has held the seat for West Virginia’s first congressional district. McKinley is up for reelection in 2018, but Baxter has not yet decided if he will challenge him, according to the News-Register.
“I’m hearing a lot of frustrations from people about the economy, and how broken Washington is,” Baxter said, according to the newspaper. “I’m considering it.”
The News-Register noted that Baxter will attend at least one important local political function within the next month when he serves as a guest speaker at an event with Belinda Biafore, chairwoman of the West Virginia Democratic Party. The filing deadline for candidates seeking to participate in the 2018 election is still six months away. Baxter did not immediately return a request for comment from The American Lawyer about his political aspirations.
The American Lawyer reported in early 2013 on Baxter’s interest in running for a Senate seat vacated by Jack Rockefeller—and now held by Republican Shelley Moore Capito—after Baxter announced his intention to turn over Orrick’s leadership reins to partner Mitchell Zuklie on Jan. 1, 2014. Baxter ultimately decided against running for office, but the legal industry innovator, who started the trend of relocating some back-office law firm operations to lower-cost centers like Wheeling, West Virginia, did return to where he grew up. (Wheeling has been the birthplace of many large firm leaders.)
Baxter, no relation to this reporter, spoke with The American Lawyer two years ago about his life in retirement, which after 23 years as Orrick’s chairman and CEO now includes a variety of advisory, speaking and writing roles. Baxter serves as chairman of the advisory board for the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, as well as an advisory board member to the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession and Georgetown Law School Center for the Study of the Legal Profession. He was also a member of the board of directors at legal research provider Lex Machina prior to its sale last year to LexisNexis Group.
Property records and Baxter’s registry with The State Bar of California show that he currently resides in a stately, six-bedroom home in Wheeling. Baxter’s wife, Cheryl, is a founder of The Sweat Bar, a San Francisco-based online boutique that sells workout wear for women.
If Baxter runs against McKinley, he will seek to return the seat to the Democratic Party, which saw longtime congressman Alan Mollohan ousted in a primary fight in 2010. McKinley beat Mollohan’s replacement in a general election later that year. Mollohan joined Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough as of counsel in early 2011, working out of the firm’s offices in Huntington, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
But in subsequent years, Mollohan was the subject of media scrutiny following the conclusion of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into his activities in Congress. While Mollohan was never charged with any wrongdoing, he’s no longer listed on Nelson Mullins’ website. His membership status with The West Virginia State Bar is currently listed as inactive.
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