West Virginia Senator Kent Leonhardt Set to Leave Senate Post

Will resign his seat hours before taking over new position

West Virginia Sen. Kent Leonhardt won’t resign his Senate seat until hours before taking the oath of office as state agriculture commissioner.

WHEELING — West Virginia Sen. Kent Leonhardt won’t resign his Senate seat until just hours before his swearing-in as the state’s next commissioner of agriculture, according to West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas.

Then the process of filling his vacated 2nd District seat will begin.

Leonhardt, R-Monongalia, plans to resign at 11:59 p.m. Sunday — only about 13 hours before he, Gov.-elect Jim Justice and other elected state officials are set to take their oaths of office at 1 p.m. Monday.

Under this timeline, the duty of appointing Leonhardt’s successor in the Senate will fall to Justice, although Lucas denies there was any intent to avoid giving the responsibility to current Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Both Tomblin and Justice are Democrats, and the candidate selected must be a Republican.

But once Leonhardt’s resignation is official, the matter first goes before an 18-member committee comprised of one male and one female representative from each of the nine counties within the 2nd Senate District. Those counties include all or parts of Marshall, Wetzel, Tyler, Monongalia, Marion, Doddridge, Ritchie, Gilmer and Calhoun counties.

West Virginia Code gives the committee 10 days to suggest three candidates for the Senate seat. Their names are then sent to the sitting governor, who makes the appointment from among them.

The committee will accept resumes from those interested in applying for the Senate seat until noon on Jan. 20.

These resumes can be mailed to the state Republican Party headquarters at wvgop@wvgop.org, or given to any committee member.

Lucas said the names of the candidates will be drawn at random to set the schedule for candidate interviews, which all will take place on Jan. 23 at a location in Doddridge County.

The committee plans to submit the names of suggested candidates to the governor immediately after the meeting is complete.

“We’re excited to hear from as many Republicans as we can,” Lucas said. “As we’ve had opportunities over the years to make these appointments, we’ve found it’s a great way to meet folks wanting to be involved in the political process who we didn’t know before. We’re anxious to move forward on this.”