Once Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., resigns to serve on the West Virginia Supreme Court, his seat will remain vacant until January, according to the state’s elections director.
Donald Kersey, who oversees elections and serves as deputy legal counsel for the secretary of state, said the seat will stay vacant because the general election is less than 84 days away.
“Thus, the vacant seat will remain vacant until the successor is elected, certified and takes the congressional oath of office on Jan. 3, 2019,” he said.
Gov. Jim Justice appointed Jenkins to fill the seat on the bench held by Robin Davis, who announced her resignation after the House of Delegates passed articles of impeachment against her.
Jenkins won his congressional seat in 2014 after switching to the Republican Party and won re-election in 2016. Before Congress, he served as a state legislator as a Democrat, the executive director for the West Virginia State Medical Association and as general counsel for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
He ran in the 2018 Republican primary for U.S. Senate, ultimately losing to state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in May.
Jenkins’ chief of staff, Patrick Howell, said in a statement that staff members will stay on until a winner is certified in the November general election.
“Once the congressman resigns, the office will fall under the Office of the Clerk,” he said. “The office will officially become the Office of the Third District of West Virginia. All of the staff will continue to work for the Third District under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Clerk until the close of business on the day the election is certified. We will continue to process constituent casework for residents of the third congressional district.”
Elections are typically certified within 10 to 14 days, unless the race is contested via recount, according to Secretary of State’s Office spokeswoman Erin Timony.
Just before 5 p.m. Friday, Jordan Damron, a spokesman for the governor, said the seat will be filled via special election, a statement in conflict with Kersey’s.
“Vacancies in the U.S. House are required by the constitution to be filled by a special election,” he said.
Damron did not respond to follow-up questions regarding the discord between his statement and Kersey’s or whether the governor was aware his appointment would leave the district without a representative in Congress for about four months.
State Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, is running against Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell, for control of Jenkins’ House seat. Although the district backed President Donald Trump by huge margins, political forecasters have calculated it to be the state’s most competitive House race.
From the time of Jenkins’ appointment, there is a 20-day waiting period to allow interested parties to object to the appointment. He will be sworn in after that window closes, assuming no objections are filed.
Jenkins also is running for election in November for the seat he will be holding on a temporary basis.
Currently, Margaret Workman and Beth Walker are the only two elected justices actively serving the Supreme Court. The House of Delegates passed articles of impeachment against both of them that the Senate is scheduled to try.
The House passed similar articles against Justice Allen Loughry as well, who is also facing criminal charges and a judicial investigation. He is still on the bench, although he is suspended.
Former Justice Menis Ketchum resigned before impeachment proceedings began, and has since pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.
Former House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, will take over Ketchum’s seat on an interim basis. He also is seeking election for the seat in November.