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Ohio County GOP Executive Committee Situation Not Finished Yet

Photo by Eric Ayres Dolph Santorine speaks during a public hearing before the W.Va. Legislature Joint Committee on Redistricting in 2021.

WHEELING — A newly elected Ohio County Republican Executive Committee — with seven of 12 seats occupied — voted this week to retain Elgine McArdle as chairwoman.

Members met Thursday night and also affirmed the position of the past board not to seat Dolph Santorine, the top vote-getter for the Magisterial District 2-Male seat on the executive committee. On Election Day, it was discovered redistricting had moved Santorine into District 1.

Members are inviting interested candidates to apply for seats on the committee not filled by the May 10 election.

Meanwhile, Santorine said he has retained an attorney in his bid to take the elected seat on the Ohio County Republican Party Executive Committee, someone well-known to McArdle and party officials. Santorine said he has hired Wheeling lawyer Martin Sheehan, a former chairman of the Ohio County GOP.

“There’s a tremendous amount of precedent for making sure I get seated,” Santorine explained.

He cited a recent incident in Wood County, where County GOP Chairman Rob Cornelius was dismissed from the position by former West Virginia Chairwoman Melanie Potter. In the end, the courts ruled in Cornelius’s favor.

“The fact that this (failure to seat) will be overturned, and in my favor, is pretty much a foregone conclusion,” Santorine said.

“The voters spoke. I was very clearly and legally elected. The county commission certified by election. It is indeed unfortunate that everything was not clear with redistricting, but I was elected in Magisterial District 2, and I intend to serve.”

Santorine filed for a County GOP Executive Committee seat in District 2, but was among 16 voters moved into District 1 following redistricting.

Santorine, nevertheless, received the most votes among those casting ballots in District 2. At the election canvass on Monday, Ohio County commissioners let the election stand as it was determined the change in magisterial district lines was never approved by them.

McArdle, also an attorney, disagrees with the county’s determination. On Wednesday, she and the County Republican Executive Committee released a statement saying they would not seat Santorine. They instead invited him to apply for appointment to the executive committee.

The new board consists of McArdle, husband and wife Greg and Debi Smith, Robert Luchetti Jr., Carlee Ditmar, and two new members — father and daughter Craig and Faith Meyer.

The board under bylaws is intended to consist of 12 members and a chair, with two men and two women elected from each magisterial district. In places where no candidate filed for election, someone is appointed to fill the spot.

Since she has been elected chairwoman, McArdle’s 3rd District-Female seat now will be vacant. She said Judi Varner-Meyer, the wife and mother of the Meyers now on the board, is expected to file for appointment to the vacant District 3-Female seat.

Meyer recently lost her bid for the GOP nomination to the West Virginia Senate District 1 seat to Laura Wakim-Chapman.

Other seats on the County GOP Executive Board to be filled through appointment are as follows:

In District 1, there is a vacancy for a male, as well as both female seats.

In District 2, the seat for which Santorine was the top vote-getter, will be up for appointment of one male, and there is also a male seat open in District 3

Anyone wishing to file a letter of intent to fill a vacant position should email it by June 8 to elgine@mcardlelawoffice.com.

Official results in the County GOP Executive Committee District 2 – Male race showed Santorine with 537 votes, and Greg Smith with 403, giving them the two seats on the board. Close behind was Alex Coogan with 397, then Russell Hardman with 241 and Michael Borsuk with 214.

Coogan said if Santorine’s election isn’t accepted by board members, then he as the third place finisher should get the second seat based on election results.

He believes the election for the spot was “entirely botched” by county officials. Had Santorine run in District 1, Santorine would have run unopposed.

“It’s a whole debacle that could be solved,” he said. “Put him in the right district (District 1). Then I would win the seat I won.”

He isn’t certain he will apply for the empty District 2 seat.

“I don’t know… I feel like I shouldn’t have to apply to get the seat that I won. But it might be the route I go. The whole thing is silly,” Coogan said.

Santorine also doesn’t believe the election’s results should be overlooked and disregarded.

“The voters have spoken,” he said. “It is not something that should be overridden by a single individual.”

The job of the Ohio County Executive Committee is to get Republicans elected, Santorine continued.

“I don’t believe that involves getting involved in party bickering that should have been done behind closed doors, and not in the public,” he said.


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