It seems like the West Virginia Democrat Party’s efforts to sue Republicans in the hopes of removing them from ballot backfired in their U.S. Senate candidate’s face.
One day after hearing arguments, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled unanimously 5-0 that Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and the State Election Commission blatantly violated state law and a High Court ruling saying they must allow a replacement candidate on the ballot if they allow a candidate to drop out.
As we’ve detailed before, Democrats have gone after a handful of Republicans to either sue to remove them from the ballot or scare them so they’d drop out. In this case, they accused Delegate Suzette Raines (R-Kanawha) of not filing campaign finance reports and for not living in her district. They took her to court, but due to the stress of the death of her mother and the ending of a long-term relationship, she decided it was easier to drop out of the race.
Republicans sought to replace Raines on the ballot with Marie Sprouse-McDavid who came in fifth in the May primary for the 35th District. But the State Elections Commission, led by Democrat Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, refused to allow the replacement, leaving the slot empty – three Republicans versus four Democrats.
Republicans were forced by law to give notice of a lawsuit and wait 30 days to file it. The Supreme Court, made up of three Democrats and two Republicans, heard the case Tuesday. All of the Justices seemed annoyed with both the the attorney for Tennant and the SEC, as well as the attorney for the state Democrat Party.
The attorney representing the state in Tuesday’s hearing had barely risen to address the court before Justice Allen Loughry bellowed a question about why the commission and Tennant “seem to ignore the laws of this state.” Justice Brent Benjamin repeatedly said the commission has a “misperception of its own authority” and criticized the commission for not allowing local Republicans to replace Raines after she withdrew.
“That’s ridiculous,” Justice Allen Loughry concluded. “I would hope to goodness that the State Election Commission and the Secretary of State, charged with enforcing the election laws of this state, would understand what the election laws are.”
And in today’s ruling, even Justice Menis Ketchum, a Democrat, wrote a separate opinion lambasting Tennant and the SEC:
I write separately to make very clear my belief that the Election Commission blatantly ignored both a black-letter election law, and a 22-year-old case interpreting that law…
…The Election Commission was bound to follow our election law, but it did not. It allowed a Republican candidate for the 35th District to withdraw for extenuating circumstances. Under the law, it was required to allow the Republican party to choose a replacement candidate. Because the Commission erred, I concur with the majority opinion’s decision. The Election Commission must comply with all, not just some, of our election law.
It doesn’t get more blunt than that. Now Kanawha County has to reprint ballots. This decision impact military ballots and absentee ballots. It’s going to cost tens, if not hundreds, of dollars of taxpayer dollars to fix Tennant’s mistake.
As I said before, the Democrats can’t sue their way to prevent a takeover of the House by Republicans. Like poor marksmen, they hit everyone else but their intended target. Their unethical effort to force a Republican candidate to withdrawal, with the help of Natalie Tennant, their candidate for U.S. Senate against Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, has hurt their chances with both the House of Delegates AND the U.S. Senate.