By Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON — Two candidates had filed for the unexpired term on the Mingo County Board of Education, as of late Friday. Meanwhile, county Democrat Chairman H. Truman Chafin officially notified County Clerk “Big Jim” Hatfield that Jonathan “Duke” Jewell is the party’s choice for the unexpired term of Family Court judge.
Hatfield said former school board member Stephen “Cheetah” Marcum and Robert “Hank” Starr had filed for the board vacancy before the close of business Friday. Marcum, who lost his board seat in May, lives in Kermit/Hardee District while Starr is from Magnolia.
In notifying Hatfield that Jewell was the choice of the Democrat Executive Committee for family court judge, Chafin added that Jewell is expected to now pay a filing fee.
Some have questioned whether an election for family court judge is required, but Hatfield has said he supports placing the matter on the Nov. 4 ballot. Chafin cited West Virginia Code 3-5-19 in his letter to Hatfield regarding Jewell’s appointment, saying that provision supports the Democrats’ right to name a candidate.
A vacancy for family court judge was created when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin finally appointed former family court judge Miki Thompson as circuit judge after the May primary. Thompson was appointed, belatedly, to fill the position left vacant when former circuit judge Michael Thornsbury resigned as part of a federal plea agreement.
By elevating Thompson, who won the May Democrat primary over Jewell, the governor apparently created a vacancy that can eventually be filled by the voters. The vacancy occurred more than 84 days before the general election, meaning the voters get to choose someone to complete the remainder of Thompson’s family court judge term, Hatfield said.
Meanwhile, former school board member Bill Duty resigned last week so he could seek election to an unexpired county commission seat. That spot belonged to former commissioner David Baisden, who also resigned in a sweeping federal investigation of corruption in Mingo County. Candidates have until Aug. 19 to file for Duty’s seat on the board.
Hatfield created a vacancy on the ballot for that seat when he withdrew as the Democrat nominee for commissioner. Now, Diann Hannah and Duty will be running on a November county commission ballot that will not include either a Democrat or Republican nominee. No Republican ran for the job in May.
Hatfield said he hopes “voters do not get confused with all the changes. We’re doing it all according to the law and putting the people first.” Those who maintain that a family court election should not be held advocate allowing Tomblin to fill the unexpired position.
“I believe the voters of Mingo County should decide,” Hatfield said.