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West Virginia Leaders Support Push To Limit Their Terms

Photo by Steven Allen Adams From left, Secretary of State Mac Warner, Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt, State Treasurer Riley Moore, State Auditor J.B. McCuskey, and state Sen. Ryan Weld introduce a term limits resolution for constitutional officers.

CHARLESTON — Constitutional elected members of West Virginia’s Board of Public Works came out Wednesday in support of a resolution to limit their terms in office.

State Treasurer Riley Moore, State Auditor J.B. McCuskey, Secretary of State Mac Warner, Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to lend their support to Senate Joint Resolution 11.

SJR 11, the Constitutional Officer Term Limit Amendment, would amend the West Virginia Constitution to limit the office holders for secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, commissioner of agriculture and attorney general to no more than three terms in office starting in 2024.

“This will be a tremendous opportunity for us to finally restrain executive power,” Moore said. “We’ve come here as a collective group to say we are tired of the policies of the past of having individuals sit in these offices for decades upon decades. We think this the best way forward in terms of governance and transparency and accountability here in the State of West Virginia.”

The way the resolution is written, the proposed amendment would also apply to Moore, McCuskey, Warner, Leonhardt and Morrisey if adopted by two-thirds vote of both the state Senate and the House of Delegates and approved by voters in a special election in 2022. Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, is the lead sponsor of the resolution.

“It’s something (Moore) and I spoke about back when he was in the House of Delegates,” Weld said. “It really does represent a good governance idea … it ensures we always have fresh ideas and a fresh person in that position.”

West Virginia governors are limited to two terms with Gov. Jim Justice in his second and final term. The state also limits county sheriffs to two terms. But other constitutional officers in the executive branch are not term-limited.

McCuskey, Warner, and Leonhardt were re-elected in November to their second terms in office, while Morrisey, who in 2016 said his second term would be his last term, won re-election to a third term in 2020. Morrisey was unable to attend Wednesday’s press conference, but sent a statement of support.

“I’m happy to support the resolution to establish term limits for the Board of Public Works,” Morrisey said. “I have pushed for a similar resolution in the past and believe it will restore more power back to the people.”

Moore, who ran on term limits as part of his platform, defeated John Perdue, a six-term Democratic state treasurer, in 2020, becoming the first Republican elected to that seat since the Great Depression. Now all of the state constitutional officers are Republicans, with Justice switching parties from Democrat to Republican in 2017.

“I ran on this,” Moore said. “I talked to people around the state for two years about this and this was something that was unanimously supported, whether it was a Democrat or a Republican I was speaking to.”

West Virginia has several examples of constitutional officers who stayed in office for decades. Former Democratic attorney general Darrell McGraw first took office in 1993 and served five terms before Morrisey defeated him in 2012. Democrat Glen Gainer Jr. served four terms as state auditor from 1977 to 1992. His son, Glen Gainer III, served as state auditor for six terms starting in 1993 until his resignation and retirement in 2016.

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