By Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON — The November general election ballot may have just gotten even more complicated for November 4 in Mingo County.
Although political observers might think that impossible, given other recent events, it appeared Saturday that Mingo voters will be asked to select a board of education member in November. That would be in addition to other positions already on the ballot, which include two candidates for county commissioner not affiliated with any major party.
County Clerk “Big Jim” Hatfield said Saturday “our study of the Code says the board seat will have to be on the ballot, too.” That came about because board of education member Bill Duty resigned his seat last week and filed for county commissioner Friday.
Creating that vacancy on the board when he did, Hatfield said, “calls for an election for that job (the school board).”
Hatfield referenced West Virginia Code 3-5-19 in making his statement.
That section says, “if a vacancy occurs in the board of education after the close of candidate filing but not later than 84 days before the General Election, a special candidate filing period shall be established. Individuals seeking election to the unexpired term must file a certificate of announcement and pay the filing fee to the County Clerk.”
According to 2014 election information provided by West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, this year’s special filing period would run from August 4 through 19. Those familiar with the election process have calculated August 10 to be the date 84 days before the general election, meaning the special filing period would be required. Duty resigned July 31.
Hatfield said Saturday, “we just discovered this in the Code, so I really am not sure how to handle it except we’ll do what the law says.” He said he is prepared to establish a filing method on Monday, August 4, to comply with the code.
The Clerk said because the provision was discovered over the weekend, “I have not had a chance to talk to the secretary of state’s office about it. I will certainly discuss it with them as we get ready for this.”
Hatfield said he wanted to announce his findings to the media “so people will know what’s going to happen. I always believe in letting the public know what the law is. We always follow the law.”
The county commission situation had already set up the intriguing scenario whereby Mingo has no major party candidate running for the unexpired term of convicted former Commissioner David Baisden. Hatfield filed for the Democrat nomination and defeated appointed Commissioner Mike Carter in the primary. Carter was appointed by Commissioners Greg “Hootie” Smith and John Mark Hubbard after Baisden was forced to resign by federal officials investigating corruption in Mingo.
But last week, Hatfield announced that he was withdrawing as a candidate. He cited health concerns in making the announcement. The state elections commission refused to agree that Hatfield’s health problems were sufficient for “extenuating personal circumstances,” however.” They said Democrats could not name a replacement on the ballot. Since no
Republican, Libertarian or Mountain Party candidate filed for the position in the primary, that meant the ballot remained vacant until Friday.
Then, under procedures outlined by Tennant, two candidates came forward with sufficient petitions and the filing fee to be placed on the November ballot. Diann Hannah and Bill Duty thus qualified but will not appear under any major party line. They each filed the required number of petitions and paid the fee prior to the close of businessFriday.
Those who wish to run as write-in candidates for commissioner have until September 16 to announce their official candidacy with Hatfield’s office. There is no filing fee as a write-in but those not registered with the clerk will not have their votes counted election night, according to state law.
Now, apparently, Hatfield’s office will be open for the board filing period. Meanwhile, the county Democrat executive committee is meeting Tuesday evening at 4:30 to choose its candidate for family court judge. That position was left open when the family judge was elevated to circuit judge. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin made that appointment of Miki Thompson before the 84-day deadline as well.
Those interested in the board seat or for further information can call Hatfield’s office at 304-235-0330.