Klempa to Resign W.Va. Senate Seat in December

WHEELING – Ohio County commissioner-elect Orphy Klempa says he is waiting to resign his state Senate seat until Senate Democrats meet next month and select their president.

After Klempa resigns, Democrat leaders in the 1st Senate District then can begin the process of appointing someone to his vacated seat.

“I don’t want to leave the seat vacant as we go into caucus to choose a president,” Klempa said. “I want to make sure (current Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall) is re-elected. We will probably caucus sometime around Dec. 10, and I will resign shortly after.”

Kessler isn’t expected to face opposition in being re-elected Senate president. The Democratic caucus first chooses its nominee for the position, then the vote comes up on the Senate floor before all Senate members.

Ohio County Democrat Party Co-Chairman Robert “Rocky” Fitzsimmons said he is waiting for Klempa’s resignation before accepting applications from those wanting to be the next Senator representing the 1st District. He said the process will be similar to that used when Democrat leaders in Brooke and Ohio counties last year needed to fill a vacated 2nd District delegate seat.

Those interested in being a state lawmaker submitted applications to their county Democrat chairmen, and a committee comprised of members of both Brooke and Ohio counties evaluated the applicants and suggested one to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for appointment.

It is likely the selection committee for the 1st District senate seat will involve members from Hancock, Brooke and Ohio counties, and that applicants would likely have to come from one of these counties, Fitzsimmons said.

A part of Marshall County is now included in the 1st District, but Klempa was elected prior to those residents being included. As such, it is expected the new senator would come from within the former district lines, but Fitzsimmons added he needs more clarification from the state on this point.

Klempa defeated Republican Patty Levenson in the Nov. 6 election to become the next Ohio County commissioner. Former commissioner David Sims, a Democrat, withdrew from the race after he was appointed to serve as Ohio County Circuit Court judge. Klempa then was appointed to the ballot by the county party from among a field of six applicants.

Wheeling resident John Clarke was chosen to fill the vacant commission seat temporarily.