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WVa court rejects challenge to governor’s appointment

February 9, 2021 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Supreme Court gave the green light for the governor’s appointment of a state lawmaker caught in the middle of a Republican dispute.

After a hearing on Tuesday, the court rejected a challenge by officials in Wayne County who alleged Republican Gov. Jim Justice did not follow state law when he filled a vacant seat in the legislature last month.

Republican Del. Joshua Booth will be allowed to assume his duties as a legislator after the court rescinded a block on him taking office. The legislature will begin its annual 60-day session on Wednesday.

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The seat was formerly held by Derrick Evans, who resigned after being charged with illegally entering the U.S. Capitol in the Jan. 6 riot with a mob of Donald Trump supporters.

The dispute over Booth’s appointment had fueled a state GOP fracas. The chair of the Wayne County Republican committee, Jeffrey Maynard, lodged the challenge and temporarily succeeded in blocking Booth from taking office. He claimed the head of the state party and Justice intervened to select Booth over three other names the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee had voted on and sent to the governor.

But the Justice administered argued Maynard and local officials failed to follow the correct procedure, allowing the governor to pick a new name sent in a letter by the state party’s acting chairman, Roman Stauffer.

West Virginia Solicitor General Lindsay See said the names to fill a delegate seat needed to be sent to the governor from the local party committee of the delegate’s district, rather than of the county.

John Bryan, an attorney representing Maynard, failed to sway the justices that both committees are largely comprised of the same members.

In November, Evans had become the first Republican in generations to win a delegate race in Wayne County, long dominated by Democrats. But he soon resigned under pressure after he recorded himself joining the Capitol breach.

Booth, 41, is an executive at a family-run road contractor based in Huntington who has never run for office. He will serve Evans’ remaining two-year term. He did not immediately return an email seeking comment on Tuesday evening.

“I believe I am as Wayne County as they come, and as such, I think that I share the viewpoints and experiences of my fellow residents,” he had said in a statement in late January.

When the governor chose Booth over the three other candidates offered by the Wayne County Republican committee, many in the rural county claimed the governor and state party bigfooted the process to replace a lawmaker.

Zak Ritchie, an attorney representing the state GOP, urged the justices on Tuesday to avoid “allowing itself to be pulled into the middle of an inter-party dispute.” He dismissed claims that the governor was wrong to pick Booth’s name from a list of candidates drawn up by the state party.

“The process worked as it was required,” he said. There was no disenfranchisement here.”