WV high court should weigh in on Senate vacancy

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel 

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has, after all, decided to at least appear to serve his own Democratic party by announcing he will appoint a Democrat to fill the seat of former state Sen. Daniel Hall, who switched to the Republican party after being elected. Tomblin passed the buck to the state Supreme Court of Appeals Monday, saying he would appoint a Democrat … unless given guidance to the contrary by the court.

West Virginia law is clear on the matter. A Republican should fill the seat. Tomblin knows that.

But his action gives hope to Democrats still licking their wounds after last year’s overwhelming defeat. The addition of a Democrat to the state senate would mean a 17-17 tie, and a potentially much more difficult session this year than last for Republicans.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, seized on those rays of hope Monday evening.

“We shall see. It may make for an interesting session,” Kessler said, adding he believes a balanced Senate may be a good thing for the state. “Perhaps it would behoove us all to work together with common solutions, rather than run an agenda roughshod over the other side, which is what happened in most respects last year.”

If any group is going to be able to spot an agenda run roughshod over the other side, it is the Democratic Party in West Virginia. When they lost that ability last year, many in the party were stunned, taking quite some time to figure out how to function in the new order voters wanted in Charleston. Apparently, they did not let go of that sting, and are prepared to see the law broken to send West Virginia a step backward.

In announcing his intention to appoint a Democrat, Tomblin asked “this court address and resolve the issues raised and provide clarity on whether he is obligated to appoint a Democrat or a Republican.” The court had better do so very quickly.

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