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Home for the holidays might have taken on a new meaning for Gov. Jim Justice with the recent West Virginia Supreme Court ruling on residency requirements.

It seems the high court believes a “residence” is where someone lives. That’s odd, since most people would automatically agree with that definition. Courts and the public usually disagree.

In West Virginia, we’ve gone through months and years of litigation, though, trying to figure out what the state constitution means when it requires the governor and other statewide officials to “reside at the seat of government.”

Justice didn’t hide the fact that he intended to continue living in Greenbrier County as governor. It was clear in the 2016 campaign and obvious in 2020, since that had been his practice for more than three years.

Credit (or debit) Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, with raising the legal issue. He initially said he filed suit to force Justice to live in Charleston because the governor was often AWOL while living in Lewisburg.

The case dragged on in Kanawha Circuit Court. Finally, Circuit Judge Charles King said the Supreme Court should issue some direction and definitions. It did that by basically saying a “residence” is where one lives and sleeps most of the time.

Now the entire matter has been returned to King’s court for determination if the governor is breaking the law.

The guess is that the eventual ruling will be that he is violating state code, but since the voters don’t care, so what? They just reelected him with 65% of the vote.

•••

If, as Justice has said, the modern age of instant communication from virtually anywhere makes the residency requirement moot, it’s time to change the constitutional requirement.

Although the governor has ruled nine months by executive decree, that does not supersede the constitution. Of course, that’s hard to tell in practice, since he’s done things like arbitrarily change primary election day.

So why let the constitution get in the way of where he lives?

•••

Liberty-loving Republicans wonder if West Virginia’s primary could pass legal challenge, if someone had questioned it.

Arguments are being made that thousands of votes in Pennsylvania should not count because legal time requirements were not met for some. They weren’t met for anyone in the Mountain State primary. The primary was not held in May, as required.

•••

The apparent coming change in federal administrations means the days are numbered for Southern District U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, a Trump Republican.

Stuart is one of several potential GOP candidates for governor in 2024, when Justice will be term-limited.

Democratic Party names mentioned for U.S. Attorney include Kanawha Circuit Judge Tera Salango and former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.

Salango is the wife of Kanawha County commissioner and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Ben Salango. She is said to be actively interested in the job.

It’s not known if Goodwin, a successful Charleston lawyer, wants another term as the federal attorney. He is married to Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin.

•••

One of the endearing quotes for losing politicians in West Virginia was credited to an individual in Webster County.

“The people have spoken,” the judicial candidate said. “And can you believe what the (expletive) said?”

•••

A true libertarian among newly elected legislators is Republican Derrick Evans, of Wayne County.

Long represented by Democrats in virtually all offices, Evans will be a different kind of Wayne legislator.

He’s already circulating a petition challenging any governmental “right” to force citizens to take the coronavirus vaccine.

“This is serious stuff guys,” Evans wrote. “I’m trying to gather signatures before our first caucus meeting in a few weeks. I’m trying to get as many before the upcoming legislative session. Myself and a few other elected officials are willing to fight for our freedom. You have no idea how much it would help us if you signed this petition.”

He’s unlike those alleged liberty-loving Republicans who have allowed Justice to rule by executive decree since March.

•••

There will be plenty of debate regarding the recent arrest of former Kanawha County deputy sheriff Noel Braley. Braley just came through an often-heated campaign for Jackson County sheriff. The GOP nominee, Braley lost to Democrat and Chief Deputy Ross Mellinger.

Braley was charged with DUI, impersonating a police officer, leaving the scene of an accident and battery against a law enforcement officer.

In the modern age, there’s no reason for such arrests not to be videotaped. Hopefully, there is clear video of this episode that will answer any and all questions.

Ron Gregory is a former Glenville mayor, Kanawha County manager and Charleston assistant mayor who has covered West Virginia politics for 50 years. Reach him at 304-533-5185 or ronjgregory@gmail.com.