CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The State Election Commission won't allow a replacement for a Republican delegate who withdrew from the November election.
With GOP Delegate Suzette Raines off the ballot, Wednesday's decision gives Democrats an edge in the 35th House district. Four Democrats and three Republicans will vie for the four Kanawha County seats. Write-in candidates are possible.
The decision comes during a heated election season, in which Republicans are pursuing their first House majority in about 85 years. Democrats hold a six-seat advantage, and all 100 seats are in play this election.
In Monday's withdrawal, Raines said she needed time to heal after her mother's death in March and the end of her engagement. She did not attend Wednesday's hearing.
Commissioners didn't think her extenuating circumstances sufficed under election law. They opted against casting a vote on the request. In West Virginia, a withdrawn candidate's personal situation has to prevent him or her from holding office before a replacement is allowed.
Commissioners expressed concern that Raines felt she couldn't serve a second term starting in January, but still is serving as a sitting lawmaker.
State GOP Chairman Conrad Lucas said the party is exploring legal options.
"Obviously, we're very disappointed in the outcome," Lucas said. "But I think that it's the citizens of the 35th District who have been cheated of their opportunity to truly participate in the electoral process."
The state Democratic Executive Committee filed a complaint against Raines in Kanawha County Circuit Court on July 21. The complaint alleged Raines doesn't live where she claims.
It also alleged that Raines hasn't filed several campaign finance reports or a financial disclosure report, and didn't sign previous disclosures.
"I think we can all take notice of the fact that this withdrawal happened in the middle of a proceeding which had very serious allegations against Delegate Raines," said Anthony Majestro, a lawyer who represented the state Democratic Party.
Aside from Raines' slot, Republicans have fielded candidates for every House seat except for one of two openings in District 24, which is anchored in Logan County.