WV Attorney General Morrisey steps down as RAGA chairman

W.Va. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey stepped down as chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association on Thursday after just six months in the position.

According to a news release from the organization, Morrisey made the move to focus on his official duties and his 2018 U.S. Senate campaign. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will succeed him in the leadership role.

“It’s been an honor to serve as the Chairman of RAGA during such an important time and help contribute to its success,” Morrisey said in the news release.

RAGA’s executive director, Scott Will, managed Morrisey’s 2012 campaign.

“During Morrisey’s time as chair, RAGA broke funding records, recruited A-level candidates in targeted states and promoted the good work of the Republican AGs in defending the rule of law and the principles of federalism,” Will said in an email.

Morrisey is battling for a primary nomination with U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins to run in the 2018 general election.

A fortunate series of events cleared the way for Morrisey to reach the association’s top spot. First, President Donald Trump tapped then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to serve as his attorney general. That led RAGA’s then-chairman, Luther Strange, to take over Sessions’ Senate seat, leaving the RAGA spot open for Morrisey.

RAGA bolstered Morrisey’s campaign before he reached the chairmanship. In his 2016 re-election bid, the organization — through its Mountaineers Are Always Free PAC — contributed more than $6.8 million to his campaign by way of independent expenditures.

According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, some of RAGA’s top donors include the Judicial Crisis Network, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Las Vegas Sands Corp., Blue Cross Blue Shield, Ariel Corp. and Koch Industries.

If Morrisey were to win the general election, he would need to step down from his attorney general seat, leaving Gov. Jim Justice to appoint a replacement.

Although prevailing wisdom once held that Justice, elected as a Democrat, would appoint a Democrat to the office, his recent return to the Republican party has clouded any assumptions.

In June, Jenkins went on the offensive, calling on Morrisey to bow out of the race, to give voters the four years that were expected and to prevent the appointment of a Democrat as attorney general.

When asked for an update on Jenkins’ thinking in light of the party switch, a spokesman for the campaign said that, although the premise is somewhat deflated, a key aspect of it holds true.

“If he were to win, you’d have an appointed replacement,” said Andy Sere, a spokesman for the Jenkins campaign. “That’s not fair to the voters of West Virginia. I still think the point remains that, if Morrisey were to win, West Virginia voters would have no voice in his successor. That’s not the way the democratic process should work.”

Nachama Soloveichik, a spokeswoman for Morrisey’s campaign, offered this statement: “Attorney General Morrisey will continue working hard every single day to end West Virginia’s terrible opioid epidemic, fight federal overreach, uphold the rule of law, protect consumers, and advance conservative values.”

Republicans control 29 of 50 attorney general seats in the country.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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