A Morgan County man will remain on the ballot for the House of Delegates after a Kanawha circuit judge on Tuesday ruled he properly had established residency in the relevant House district.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Tera Salango said Morgan County Commissioner Ken Reed showed enough evidence that he lived at a 1,500-square-foot Hedgesville home in the 59th House district, straddling Morgan and Berkeley counties.
Salango’s ruling was the second since 2018 in a residency challenge regarding the 59th District, the other ruling being in favor of Ken Reed’s wife, Tally Reed, who ran for House in the 59th District that year.
After the hearing, Ken Reed released a statement saying the challenges to his residency had been a waste of taxpayers’ dollars and resources.
“I’m thankful for Judge Salango’s ruling today, which hopefully will put an end to these frivolous challenges to my residency,” Reed said in a statement through his attorneys. “The evidence overwhelmingly shows what I have said all along — that I am a lawful resident of the 59th Delegate District.”
Morgan County resident Howard Stone filed a petition in Kanawha Circuit Court on March 30, saying Ken Reed did not live in the 59th District, and he asked Salango to rule as such and order Secretary of State Mac Warner to de-certify Reed’s certificate of candidacy and remove him from the ballot.
Stone said the address along Martinsburg Drive in Hedgesville that Ken Reed used for his residency was a property owned by Reed’s Real Estate LLC and Ken Reed’s actual residence. Ken Reed’s actual residence was another home along Martinsburg Drive that is located in the 58th House District, Stone said.
House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, represents the 58th District, which includes most of northern and western Morgan County and the northeastern portion of Hampshire County. Cowles first was elected to the House in 2006 and has been reelected ever since.
Stone was one of two people in 2018 who similarly said Tally Reed wasn’t a resident of the 59th District, which currently is represented by Delegate Larry Kump, R-Berkeley, who is seeking reelection. The 59th District includes parts of eastern and southern Morgan County and western portions of Berkeley County.
The cases against Ken and Tally Reed were similar — both were accused of using the same Hedgesville address along Martinsburg Drive to establish residency in the 59th District while actually living in the other home in the 58th District.
The biggest difference in the case outcomes was that Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit in 2018 declined to rule on whether Tally Reed’s residency was legitimate, but she allowed Tally Reed to remain on the ballot.
Tally Reed went on to lose the primary election to Kump in 2018.
In their rulings two years apart, Tabit and Salango said they didn’t want to disenfranchise people who already voted, saying post-election remedies were more appropriate at the respective points in the election cycle.
On Tuesday, Ken Reed testified he and his wife were in the early stages of selling the home in the 58th District because their four children were almost entirely moved out of the 7,000-square-foot home. He said they primarily resided in the house in the 59th District while one of their children resided in the home in the 58th District, where they also hosted at least one family function during the past year.
Ken Reed was represented by Mark Adkins and Richie Heath with Bowles Rice in Charleston.
Ken and Tally Reed moved into the smaller Hedgesville home in the 59th District as a part of downsizing from being a six-member household to a two-member household, as their children are young adults who won’t be living at-home full-time once his youngest daughter starts college this August, he said.
Ken Reed provided copies of his driver’s license, hunting license, voters registration card and tax documents that had the address in the 59th District.
Representing Stone, attorney Patrick Lane noted records showed Reed had changed the address on his voter’s registration eight times in the past five years.
Lane, a former delegate, provided records indicating Ken Reed most recently changed his voter registration in February.
Reed and Morgan County Clerk Kimberly Nickles both testified he changed his registration in June 2018, but a glitch in the computer system in the clerk’s office had incorrectly placed Reed in Berkeley Springs.
They said the registration change in February was correcting that error.
Ken Reed is the only Republican to challenge Kump during the primary election to represent the 59th District, which is a single-member district. No Democrats filed candidacy for the seat.
Ken Reed owns and operates Reed’s Pharmacy, which has five locations in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland. In 2014, he ran for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives, representing West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.
West Virginia’s primary election is set to take place June 9.