Balance of WV Senate in hands of Supreme Court

You are here

Balance of WV Senate in hands of Supreme Court
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — All parties have now weighed in on the state Senate replacement controversy and are now awaiting a decision from the state Supreme Court with the beginning of the 60-day legislative session set for Wednesday at noon.

The Supreme Court’s deadline passed with a total of 12 legal filings in the case since last Friday, eight of them were filed Tuesday just before the noon deadline.

At issue is whether Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin should appoint a Democrat or Republican to replace resigned state Senator Daniel Hall (R-Wyoming). Hall was a Democrat when he was elected in 2012 but changed his party affiliation two years later after the 2014 General Election tied the Senate at 17-17. The count was 18-16 in last year’s legislative session after Hall’s switch.

Among those filing briefs Tuesday were the state Republican Party on behalf of the GOP Executive Committee in the 9th Senatorial District, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and state Senate President Bill Cole, all in favor of the court ordering Gov. Tomblin to appoint a Republican. Some asked the Supreme Court to conduct oral arguments in the dispute.

“Daniel Hall resigned as a Republican and that’s the most compelling evidence,” West Virginia Republican Party Chair Conrad Lucas said Tuesday on MetroNews “Talkline.” “The law itself cares exclusively about the party the individual was a member of when they resigned and Daniel Hall was a Republican.”

But Charleston attorney Anthony Majestro, representing the West Virginia Democratic Party, said the language is ambiguous and the Supreme Court must rely on the purpose of that part of state law, which is the will of the voters.

“There is not one state in the country that has the provisions the Republicans say West Virginia has,” Majestro said.

There’s no word on when the High Court will make its decision. Gov. Tomblin has said he’ll follow the court’s instruction.

The Democratic 9th Senatorial Executive Committee has submitted three names to the governor: Michael Goode, Tim Ellison and David Thompson.

The GOP committee also has sent three names for the governor to consider: Jack Fincham, Naomi “Sue” Cline and Epp Cline.