Just a little while ago we received the Governor’s response to our Petition for Writ of Mandamus in the Wayne County Delegate District 19 dispute. It was drafted and submitted by the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office.
I’ll note that the response accuses us of misreading the statute. In reality, they misunderstand the differences between multi-county delegate districts and delegate districts contained wholly within a single county. Where a district resides wholly inside one county, it is the county executive committee which presides over those committee members from that county in calling a meeting and voting on new candidates to provide to the Governor.
In fact, the State Republican Party bylaws, which they’re arguing supersede state law here, expressly provides for this:
In any case where there is no Senate Vacancy Committee or Delegate Vacancy Committee due to the district being wholly within one county, the County Chair shall appoint a subcommittee which shall act as the vacancy committee and the process of such committee be facilitated by the County Chair and State Chair. In such case, the names of the three (3) nominated candidates shall be certified by the County Chair, County Secretary, and State Chair.BYLAWS OF REPUBLICAN STATE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF WEST VIRGINIA, Section 4(d)(a)(v).
Understand that the state code does not get involved in the logistics of how the applicable district committee members, who are elected by the voters of their districts, vote – just that they get to choose three candidates for the Governor’s consideration. It’s the County Party that conducts the district committee member meeting – not the State Party. This is consistent with how it was always done in the past for these single-county districts. Although the State Party changed their bylaws at some point to give themselves involvement in local decisions, and to require their own signature and involvement in the internal process, state law was not changed.
The Wayne County Chair, Jeff Maynard, sent a copy of the list of candidates to both the Governor and to the Acting Chair of the State Party. This was after the four person delegate district committee deliberated and voted on the three candidates to send to the Governor. But the Governor didn’t choose. After the statutory five day period expired for the Governor to make a choice from the candidates, the County Chair was contacted by the Governor’s office, and told that a re-do was necessary, according to the State Party.
As you know by now, this resulted in a different name being added in place of Jay Marcum, with a vote of only two committee members, this time, rather than the original total of four members from Delegate District 19’s first meeting. As we know, that’s the name chosen by the Governor.
If it was just a matter of adding the State Party’s Acting Chair signature, he could have done so at any time. If the State Party wanted to formally deliver the list of three candidates in a separate letter, with their signature and with what they believed was appropriate letterhead, they could have done so at any time within the statutory period. Instead, they waited until five days expired from the Governor receiving the first list, and they scrapped the entire thing and started over – ultimately culminating in the addition of only one name, who was chosen by the Governor.
It’s apparent to anyone watching that the problem for the Governor and the State Party was not a procedural one – but rather a substantive one: they didn’t want to choose any of the three candidates. They wanted someone entirely different. Whether they had the ultimate choice in mind, or whether they decided that later, is probably known only to them. And also irrelevant to state law.
As reported by the West Virginia Record, in 2018, when the Governor approved from a list of three candidates from the Wood County Party to replace the vacancy following the death of Del. Deem, the Governor made a choice off that list, submitted without any signature or involvement of the State Party. The Governor was photographed by the media, smiling with his choice of appointment from the County Party’s list. However, in this case, with Wayne County, the Governor refused to make a choice until Wayne County’s list was submitted by the State Party with a different name, which he would ultimately pick:
“This list was sent in by the Wood County Republican Executive Committee, following the death of Delegate Frank Deem, who had passed away on October 10, 2018. The news media reported the fact that the county chose the list of three qualified replacements from which the Governor would be choosing. There was no mention of the state party, or the state chair.”
Bryan questions why the governor didn’t ask for a letter that included the state party in the 2018 Wood County situation.
“He made a choice and he seemed happy with it,” Bryan wrote. “I guess he liked one of the options in Wood County’s list, as opposed to Wayne County’s list. What does Wayne County know? They’re probably a bunch of hayseeds.”
Another thing that is concerning about the Attorney General’s response on behalf of the Governor, is that they argue that the first letter from Wayne County was “unsigned.” It actually wasn’t. It was signed by the Wayne County Chair. I wonder why the Governor didn’t show the AG the actual letter he received? Did the Governor’s Office never show the Attorney General the first letter?
Update 2/1/21 6:51 p.m.: the State GOP’s Response to the petition as an Intervenor: