State Democrats want a Kanawha County judge to remove Delegate Suzette Raines, R-Kanawha, from the ballot this fall over allegations that she doesn’t live where she says she does and that she didn’t properly file several required forms.
The state Democratic Executive Committee made the accusations in a request filed Monday in Kanawha County Circuit Court.
“Delegate Raines filed for re-election to represent the constituents of the 35th Delegate District and has failed to meet the minimum requirements of a candidate,” states a news release from the party.
“Raines has failed to complete her campaign finance reports, failed to file her financial disclosure with the Ethics Commission and is believed not live at the address under which she filed for candidacy.”
Raines is one of four delegates currently representing the 35th district, comprised of parts of Charleston and western Kanawha County. Although she’s one of three Republicans representing the district, Democrats are confident they can pick up at least one seat in the upcoming election.
Raines, first elected in 2012, did not immediately return a Daily Mail request for comment.
The six-page complaint alleges Raines is registered as a voter at an address in St. Albans but listed a different St. Albans address on campaign paperwork. Raines actually lives at a Charleston address, the filing states, citing “information and belief.”
The Democrats argue this is a violation of state code.
“The delegate in Kanawha County has just thumbed her nose at the law and totally ignored the law, not complying with the election requirements in reporting,” said Larry Puccio, state Democratic Party chairman.
The state has a specific definition for “residence.”
“‘Residence’ for voting and candidacy means where you live the majority of the time,” according to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website.
“Staying away temporarily (such as for school, a temporary work assignment, or a weekend or winter home) may not end your residence in a place. However, your residence is not a business address, an extra place you own, or a place you stay occasionally.”
The filing also accuses Raines of not filing complete financial disclosures with the state Ethics Commission.
She did not file a financial disclosure form by the Feb. 1 deadline, Ethics Commission interim director Rebecca Stepto said. State code says a candidate cannot stay on the ballot “unless he or she has filed a financial disclosure statement with the state Ethics Commission as required by the provisions of this section.”
There were at least five other candidates who also did not file their disclosures by the deadline: House Minority Whip Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan; Joyce Holland, Republican nominee for House of Delegates in the 17th District; Mark Dean, Republican nominee in the 21st District; Gloria Meadows, Republican nominee in the 24th District; and Michael Baisden, a Democrat who lost in the primary election to Delegate Justin Marcum, D-Mingo.
Stepto said Raines and the others who missed the filing deadline were sent a reminder in April. The commission plans to send Raines a request for the form via certified mail as early as today.
Democrats also argue Raines should be removed from the ballot for not signing financial disclosure filings required by the state Ethics Commission. The complaint says she didn’t sign disclosures filed in 2012 and 2013.
The executive committee filed Raines’ disclosure for 2012 and 2013 as evidence. Both forms are available online at the Ethics Commission website and are identical to those included in the party’s filing.
However, Stepto said Raines filed additional information each year that includes a signed “contact information and signature sheet.” Although state law says the entire disclosure needs to be available online, even if some personal information is not included, Stepto thought Raines’ extra documentation was not included online due to privacy reasons.
A different portion of the document requiring a signature is blank on both of Raines’ 2012 and 2013 disclosures. Stepto said she thought signing the signature sheet was enough.
Raines also hasn’t filed financial paperwork with the West Virginia Secretary of State since 2012, Democrats argue.
Secretary of State spokesman Jake Glance confirmed Raines hasn’t filed any forms for the 2014 election cycle.
The state Democratic Executive Committee, a fundraising and political arm for the party, wants Kanawha Circuit Court to force the local board of ballot commissioners to strike or remove Raines’ name from the ballot.
Attorney Marvin Masters, a longtime Democratic supporter, filed the petition with the court. In a separate filing, he also argues a GOP candidate for the House of Delegates in Preston County should also be removed from the ballot.
Melissa Diane Lewis filed as a Republican candidate in the race for the 52nd District on Jan. 14, according to the legal filing. The documents with her signature say she was not a member of any other party within the 60 days preceding her filing, according to the Democrats’ filing.
The Democrats argue she was actually a registered member of their own party until 5 days before filing her candidacy papers. They also believe Lewis lived in Monongalia County — and outside the 52nd District — within a year of her filing as a candidate and therefore doesn’t meet the residency requirements for the position.
Lewis did not immediately return a request for comment.
Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.