Katrina Lewis, an assistant principal at Wheeling Park High School, wasn’t supposed to win a spot as a delegate from West Virginia to the Republican National Convention.
The former history and political science teacher isn’t really a political activist, and she was on the ballot committed to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who suspended his campaign a week ago and only won 6.7 percent of the vote in West Virginia.
“I just thought it would be fun to be on the state ballot,” Lewis said, “with all these things I’ve taught over the years.”
Out of 220 candidates running for 22 at-large spots at the convention, Lewis ended up with the 60th-highest vote total after 99 percent of the precincts reported.
Usually, that would have been the end of it. But, because of the rules imposed by the state Republican Party limiting delegates based on where they’re from, Lewis ended up getting selected for the convention.
“I never dreamed, never dreamed, this would happen,” Lewis said.
If the delegate selection were based on vote totals, Trump would have won all 34 delegates from West Virginia and Lewis wouldn’t get to go to the convention. Instead, Trump won 30 out of 34.
Lewis is the only elected delegate committed to Kasich. Three of the 34 delegates are uncommitted, but two have given verbal support to Mike Stuart, co-chairman of the Donald Trump campaign in West Virginia. The third, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, hasn’t officially declared his support.
Stuart expects all 34 delegates from West Virginia will vote for Trump at the national convention.
“I probably will end up voting for [Trump],” Lewis said. “But there’s a lot of time between now and July.” She wants to see what Kasich will do between now and the convention before she decides.
Trump was only guaranteed three delegates — three state Republican leaders — by virtue of overwhelmingly winning the popular vote, Tuesday. The other 31 delegates were elected directly on the ballot by voters.
The top 31 vote winners on the ballot were committed to Trump, but only 18 of those won because of the restrictions that limit how many delegates can come from any county or congressional district.
Delegate candidates from Kanawha County were hurt the most by the rule. Six Trump supporters from Kanawha County would have gotten to go the convention, but they were eliminated based on the new rules.
The county rule was put into place to add geographic diversity to West Virginia’s representation at the convention.
“There are folks from smaller counties who basically said that it was a disadvantage being from a smaller county,” said Kris Warner, the West Virginia Republican National Committeeman and a delegate to the convention.
Warner, of Monongalia County, was at the meeting when the state GOP executive committee, which votes on the primary rules every four years, decided to add the geographic limitations to the primary process. This is the first time there has been a rule limiting delegates based on location.
Stuart said he thinks the new rule hurt candidates from the more populated areas of the state.
“This needs reformed substantially moving forward,” Stuart said. “What they ended up doing is that they punished the population centers of West Virginia.”
Warner said people from some of the larger counties will still get to go to the convention as alternates, but the alternates are limited by county as well.
That would mean Seth Gaskins, the 16th highest vote-getter among the 220 at-large candidates, and the fifth highest in Kanawha County, doesn’t get to go to Cleveland in July.
“The restrictions are ridiculous,” Gaskins said.
Warner said people who are in positions similar to Gaskins can get involved and help reform the process for future elections.
“I don’t know how much I’m actively going to push for change,” Gaskins said. “I just hope the party learned from this cycle.”
Stuart said he will be pushing for reform before the next primary.
“Just because it worked out in our favor does not mean it’s right,” Stuart said.
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Here’s the list of West Virginia delegates going to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland:
Republican National Committee delegates: Conrad Lucas, Cabell County; Melody Potter, Kanawha County; Kris Warner, Monongalia County.
Congressional district delegates: District 1: Mary Beth Andreini, Ohio County; Barry Bledsoe, Marion County; Phil Mallow, Marion County; District 2: Vic Sprouse, Kanawha County; Mike Stuart, Kanawha County; Ron Walters, Kanawha County; District 3: Ray Canterbury, Greenbrier County; Michael Baisden, Mingo County; Mark Maynard, Wayne County.
At-large delegates: Donna Boley, Pleasants County; Diana Bartley, Harrison County; Stephanie Abramowitz, Kanawha County; Vicki Dunn-Marshall, Cabell County; Gregory Baldt, Hancock County; Joe Harper, Pendleton County; Kristi Beddow, Mingo County; Anne Dandelet, Cabell County; Brian Casto, Kanawha County; Craig Evans, Wayne County; Dan Hill, Fayette County; Kevin Honaker, Raleigh County; Kristi Jeffrey, Fayette County; Stephen McElroy, Harrison County; Aaron Metz, Monongalia County; John Raese, Monongalia County; Caleb Turner, Putnam County; Michael Snelling, Putnam County; Patrick Morrisey, Jefferson County; Mitch Carmichael, Jackson County; Andy McKenzie, Ohio County; Katrina Lewis, Marshall County.
Reach Daniel Desrochers at
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