A Kanawha County Republican lawmaker denied recent accusations by state Democrats, characterizing the allegations as “disgusting and very hurtful.”
Delegate Suzette Raines said she never lived outside of the 35th District, which she represents. Although she didn’t specifically say where she’s living now, she said she has stayed in several different places earlier this year in the course of her caring for her ill mother.
“I am also very upset that any claim that I did not live in my district would be related to me staying with my mom during the time she was very sick,” Raines said in a statement to the Daily Mail.
“I find this politically motivated effort disgusting and very hurtful to me, my younger brother and a host of friends who care and have supported me during this very difficult time,” Raines continued in a different part of the statement.
The West Virginia Democratic Executive Committee filed a legal request Monday in Kanawha Circuit Court alleging Raines didn’t live where she said she lives and didn’t submit required forms to the West Virgina Secretary of State or state Ethics Commission.
Raines listed several different address on different forms that say she lives in St. Albans, but the Democrat organization argues she actually lives in Charleston, citing “information and belief.”
The Democrat organization argues those issues warrant Raines’ removal from the general election ballot.
First elected in 2012, Raines is one of four delegates representing the 35th District, which covers parts of Charleston and western Kanawha County. She was absent from most of this year’s legislative session taking care of her mother; Raines has said she looked after her mother for months before her mother passed away in March.
Raines said Democrats know she was caring for her mother because they sent her a sympathy card.
GOP state party Chairman Conrad Lucas said the legal action was a “desperate” attempt by the Democrats in their quest to take back one of the three seats Republicans currently occupy in the district.
“We certainly aren’t surprised that a party of liberal trial lawyers have filed a frivolous lawsuit,” Lucas said.
Lucas referred to potential issues surrounding required paperwork as “a clerical error” that was a minor issue; Raines said she was reviewing the claim with her attorney and would “promptly resolve” any “deficiencies” they find.
Raines also said she didn’t do anything wrong or illegal, but didn’t want to get into details.
Every political candidate and elected official is required to file an annual financial disclosure with the state Ethics Commission. Raines did not file that disclosure by the Feb. 1 deadline, said the commission’s Interim Executive Director Rebecca Stepto.
State law says a person who does not submit a disclosure cannot appear on a ballot.
“No candidate for public office may maintain his or her place on a ballot and no public official may take the oath of office or enter or continue upon his or her duties or receive compensation from public funds unless he or she has filed a financial disclosure statement with the state Ethics Commission as required by the provisions of this section,” according to the state Ethics Act.
The act goes on to say “any person who knowingly fails or refuses to file a financial statement … is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Raines did appear on the ballot for the May 13 primary, where she defeated several challengers to advance as one of four GOP nominees in the 35th district. Stepto said notice was sent to both the candidates who didn’t file and the county clerks in their respective areas about the lack of a financial disclosure before the primary election.
“If a candidate fails to file the financial disclosure statement, he also is barred from receiving financial compensation from public funds, pursuant to the ethics act,” Stepto added.
Monday she told the Daily Mail there were several candidates who had not submitted their disclosures. Raines and House Minority Whip Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, were the only two sitting lawmakers not to file their disclosures, according to information provided by Stepto.
Cowles said Tuesday he did file his disclosure and the commission is making a mistake. He said he filed a form as a delegate, but they might not have included the same information in the category the commission uses for political candidates.
“It’s a surprise to me that they have me down as non-compliant right now,” Cowles said late Tuesday.
Raines also downplayed issues with the Secretary of State’s office.
Jake Glance, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, recently said Raines hasn’t submitted any campaign finance reports for the 2014 election cycle.
Raines said she hasn’t done any campaigning this cycle, or attempted to raise any campaign money. Her expenditures include the required filing fee and a fee for keeping a post office box, she said.
State law still requires candidates to file reports regardless of whether they were actively campaigning. If they don’t file those forms within 60 days of the primary, the law requires the Secretary of State’s office to refer the names of those non-complaint candidates to the local prosecutor.
The Secretary of State is not allowed to let the names of candidates not in compliance with the law appear on the general election ballot, according to state code.
The general election is Nov. 4
Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.