The following editorial appeared in The Exponent Telegram on Jan. 5:
Now that State Sen. Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming, has resigned, the debate over who should replace him will hit new levels, especially since control of the State Senate hangs in the balance.
At issue is which party should have a say in who replaces Hall, who was elected as a Democrat in 2012 but switched to Republican last year.
Republicans argue that state law favors the party for which he was currently serving: “… the party executive committee of the party with which the person holding the office immediately preceding the vacancy was affiliated,” is written in state code.
But the code is anything but clear on the matter, as two paragraphs later is says the potential nominee comes from “the party executive committee of the state senatorial district in which the vacating senator resided at the time of his or her election or appointment.”
So that would be the Democrats, leaving both parties trying to lay claim to providing Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin with a list of potential replacements. Eventually, Gov. Tomblin will have final say, but the matter could be tied up in legal proceedings.
That would be unfortunate, because state residents deserve full representation. And the position is key because of the current makeup of the Senate.
If a Republican replaces Hall, that party will hold a narrow 18-16 edge in total votes, thus controlling positions of power such as president, majority leader and other key posts.
If the Democrats get the spot, the Senate will be deadlocked at 17-17, which will present its own set of unique circumstances.
Granted, the situation will only exist for this session and any special session called prior to election season.
In May, voters will begin to have a direct say as primary elections will be held. And in November, a new senator to represent the district, which also includes Raleigh County, will be elected.
Until then, both parties are likely to make passionate arguments and attempt to gain the upper ground. In the political process, that is their right.
However, with the state facing serious decisions in regards to budget, business and personnel, residents deserve to have a fully functioning legislative body free and clear of any potential legal challenge.
Both parties should take steps to ask the West Virginia Supreme Court to decide the matter expeditiously given the time frame involved since the State of the State address is set for Jan. 12.
Then and only then can residents of Wyoming and Raleigh counties, as well as the rest of the Mountain State, be fully represented.
In this matter, time is of the essence and the State Supreme Court should act accordingly.