There are times when elected officials have to be held accountable and possibly removed from office for their actions. If they’re breaking the law, or flagrantly ignoring the will of the people, that’s the time to use whatever mechanisms are in place for such a proceeding.
Removing someone because you don’t like them or they don’t fall in line is a completely different matter, and something best avoided.
Rob Cornelius, former chairman of the Wood County Republican Party Executive Committee, was recently removed from his post by state GOP Chairwoman Melody Potter. Potter has been shaking up some of the county committees after some passed no-confidence votes against Democrat-turned-Republican Gov. Jim Justice. Cornelius has filed a lawsuit against Potter and Secretary of State Mac Warner, pointing out he was duly elected to his position.
To be clear, Cornelius has never been one to lead the pack in a popularity contest. Party officials have attempted to remove him before, because of alleged conduct that was unprofessional, at best. His outspoken criticism of Justice surely annoys more than a few party members hoping to retain the Governor’s Office with the incumbent in 2020.
We can’t blame Potter for being upset with Cornelius for more than once referring to her as a “prostitute,” in relation to her support for Gov. Justice. It’s also important to note that, before Potter booted Cornelius and his supporters from their positions, Cornelius was actively calling for Potter’s ouster, even distributing audio of leaked phone recordings, claiming they were of Potter insulting the governor.
Potter has had her own moments, like referring to all Democrats as “Godless” in a radio interview and drawing sharp criticism for appearing to insult former state Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, for receiving financial benefits from the government (Ojeda is a retired Army combat veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq). Potter claimed the latter incident was misinterpreted.
No one comes out of this thing looking squeaky clean. It’s clear that a lot of state GOP operatives were never comfortable with Justice coming aboard, and frustration there was inevitable. Looking at this issue in particular, all of the infighting resembles a middle school spat.
Here’s why it’s important, though: Cornelius was elected to the committee and then selected as chairman. Granted, it’s a party executive committee post, not a statewide office or seat in the Legislature, but he was retained through the democratic process. Potter claims it’s within her power in the party bylaws to intervene here. Cornelius clearly disagrees.
Here’s how we view it: Simply going in and removing Cornelius, and other committee members, because there’s bad blood isn’t a great precedent to set.
Almost anyone in West Virginia can name at least a few politicians they don’t like. Maybe it’s because of policy positions or maybe it’s because of the things they say or their involvement in certain controversies. These are all justifiable reasons not to want a particular officeholder representing you, whether it be on a county party committee, a city council or in Congress.
The solution, again unless there are laws being broken or serious malfeasance, is to vote against them the next time, not arbitrarily kick them out. In a state and nation with disappearing political norms, this is one that is crucial to keep intact.