There’s been a lot of noise kicked up by the West Virginia Republican Party and GOP legislative leaders over the eligibility challenge to Andrea Kiessling, the party’s anointed candidate out of four in the District 8 state Senate primary.
Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom ruled Kiessling ineligible because she hasn’t met the residency requirements to run for the Senate. Candidates must live in West Virginia for five years, including at least one year in the district they’re running to represent, to qualify. Kiessling lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, until at least two years ago, according to court records and testimony. Bloom heard the case because a voter filed a lawsuit challenging Kiessling’s residency, with, it would seem, good reason.
Republican leaders lost their minds over the ruling last week, with Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, calling Bloom an “activist judge” in a statement, which is, at best, inaccurate and beside the point, if not a little humorous.
On Friday, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld Bloom’s ruling, and Blair and Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, one of Kiessling’s strongest supporters, issued further statements, ironically ripping the courts for supposedly bringing the integrity of elections into question and disenfranchising voters. How cynically hypocritical. Others expressed dismay that the lawsuit and disqualification came so close to the election, as if there’s some rule that, if a candidate has gotten away with being ineligible for a certain amount of time, it becomes OK.
What no one who was upset with the decisions mentioned is that the courts simply upheld the law. They got it right. What else were they supposed to do?
This was not a matter of interpretation. There’s no gray area or vagueness of the letter of the law versus intent. To be eligible, Kiessling had to live in West Virginia for the past five years, and she hasn’t. She’s been here for two, at maximum. It doesn’t matter that she grew up in West Virginia, it doesn’t matter that she considers herself a West Virginian, or that she spent a lot of time here before moving back. Knowingly or not, she filed to run for an office for which she was ineligible. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution. Kiessling is welcome to run three years from now, if she’s still a West Virginia resident.
As for those screeching about election integrity and disenfranchising voters, they, quite accidentally, have a point. If one candidate nearly made it to the election without meeting the basic requirements to hold office, are there others? Is there anyone in the Legislature right now who didn’t meet residency requirements, but no one bothered to check? West Virginia has voter ID laws and other measures to stop supposed voter fraud, but what checks and balances are in place to hold candidates accountable?
There doesn’t seem to be as much interest in shoring up that side of things. How strange.