WAYNE — The chairman of the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee has filed a petition with the West Virginia Supreme Court claiming Gov. Jim Justice is violating the law during the process of replacing Delegate Derrick Evans, who resigned his seat earlier this month.
Chairman Jeff Maynard has petitioned for a writ of mandamus asking the Supreme Court to force the governor to follow West Virginia laws when seeking a replacement for Evans, who was elected in November to represent the 19th District in the House of Delegates.
The petition states that Justice violated state laws after refusing to pick a replacement for Evans from a list of three qualified candidates provided to the Governor’s Office on Jan. 14. Instead, the West Virginia State Republican Executive Committee submitted a different list to Justice’s office on Jan. 22.
Justice was expected to choose Evans’ replacement by Wednesday.
Per state code, after a delegate resigns, the executive committee for the former delegate’s party and district has 15 days to submit to the governor a list of three legally qualified candidates who could fill the House seat. The governor then has five days from the time he receives the nomination list to pick a replacement.
In this case, the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee of the 19th District had the responsibility of nominating three people. Maynard said the committee conducted phone interviews and submitted a list to Justice’s office on Jan. 14, with Mark Ross, Chad Shaffer and Jay Marcum as qualified candidates.
But after receiving it, the petition states, Maynard received a call from Brian Abraham, Justice’s chief of staff.
“Subsequent to the governor’s receipt of the list of three qualified candidates for the vacant seat, Chairman Maynard received a phone call from counsel for the governor, Brian Abraham, who advised that the governor would not be choosing from the list of three qualified candidates because the acting chair of the West Virginia State Republican Executive Committee, Roman Stauffer, had not participated in the vote. Thereafter, Acting Chairman Stauffer unilaterally engaged in a second selection process, ultimately creating a new list (hereinafter ‘second list’) of three candidates.”
Maynard said Stauffer then came to Wayne County and conducted a second round of interviews, asking the same 15 questions as in the first interviews. At the conclusion of the second round of interviews, a second list was sent to the Governor’s Office. It included Ross and Shaffer, like the first list, but it substituted Josh Booth for Marcum.
Maynard said the petition is not in reaction to who was added to the list, but the fact that Justice should be required to follow state law.
“It’s nothing against any of the people that came to apply or got picked. Just after the committee came together and made the list of people, the state stepped in and wanted to make another list, and the governor should be required to choose from the first list,” Maynard said.
Maynard’s petition states that Justice is required to pick a new delegate from the first list submitted by the Wayne County Republican committee.
It cites state code that says the vacant seat must be filled by someone listed among the three qualified candidates presented to Justice in the Jan. 14 letter.
“The Governor does not have the discretion to choose from a second and subsequent list of qualified candidates, which would usurp the statutory rights of the Wayne County Republican executive committee members of the 19th Delegate District, as well as their constituents,” the petition reads.
Maynard also acknowledged that the state Republican Executive Committee has bylaws pertaining to the inclusion of the state committee when making nominations on a local level, but he said, because all of the 19th District is located in Wayne County, the state should not have gotten involved.
Maynard also said he does not believe bylaws should surpass state law.
John Bryan, the attorney who filed the petition on behalf of Maynard, said that, if Justice chooses either Ross or Shaffer as the new delegate, the Supreme Court could dismiss the case.
Bryan said it is important for the governor to pick from the original list because those were chosen by the local committee.
“The whole point is the three people on the first list, whether they were perfect candidates or not perfect candidates, they were at least vetted and had some political background and were recognized by the local committee,” he said.
Donald “Deak” Kersey, legal counsel for the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, declined to comment on the matter.
“Because this is in court, our office does not have an official statement on the issue,” Kersey said.
Evans resigned from the House of Delegates on Jan. 9 after being charged in federal court for his participation during the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.