HUNTINGTON — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday selected Josh Booth, a Kenova native and political newcomer, to fill the vacant House of Delegates District 19 seat left by Derrick Evans’ resignation even amid claims by Wayne County Republicans that Justice has violated the law with his selection.
West Virginia law states a vacancy in the state Legislature — in this case, the seat vacated by Evans after his resignation following federal charges for his involvement in the U.S. Capitol breach Jan. 6 — is to be filled by appointment by the governor from a list of three legally qualified candidates submitted by the executive committee of the elected delegate’s party, over the former delegate’s district.
“In the case of a member of the House of Delegates, the list shall be submitted by the party executive committee of the delegate district in which the vacating member resided at the time of his or her election or appointment,” state code reads.
Jeff Maynard, chairman of the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee, earlier this week filed a petition with the West Virginia Supreme Court claiming Justice was violating the law by using a second list — one that had Booth’s name added — provided by the state Republican Executive Committee after the first list, constructed by the Wayne committee, had been delivered to him.
The governor announced his decision during his pandemic press briefing Wednesday afternoon.
When asked about the lawsuit, Justice said his office had been in touch with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey about the matter and they believe the second list is the legitimate one. Otherwise, Justice said the matter has to be handled by the courts.
While there are state Republican Executive Committee bylaws that say local committees are supposed to work with the state committee to form a list, so the second list should be the legitimate one, Maynard said bylaws do not go above the law.
Booth is vice president of Highway Safety Inc., a construction firm in Huntington. He graduated from Ceredo-Kenova High School in 1998 and later graduated from Marshall University with a business administration degree.
Booth said he is thankful to all his supporters and to Justice for having faith in him to fill the delegate seat and help the effort to bring jobs and prosperity to Wayne County.
Having spent his life in Wayne County, Booth said he thinks he will be able to accurately represent the county residents’ viewpoints.
“I believe I am as Wayne County as they come, and as such, I think that I share the viewpoints and experiences of my fellow residents,” he said. “It is this frame of reference that I will attempt to put the will of the citizens of Wayne County into action in Charleston.”
A news release from Justice’s office said Booth is active in Wayne County youth sports, having coached in Vinson Youth Football League and Vinson Little League Baseball, and has volunteered with the Spring Valley High School football team’s offseason conditioning.
Booth also is a member of Crosspoint Community Church in Westmoreland, a member of the Kenova Masonic Lodge No. 110, a member-at-large of the board of directors for the Contractors Association of West Virginia and previously was the chairman of the association’s Young Contractors Forum.
Booth, who will serve Evans’ full term, was chosen over former delegate Mark Ross and Republican politician Chad Shaffer, Evans’ challenger in the 2020 election.
Ross said he is not upset that he lost, but the governor should have chosen from the original list of nominees received Jan. 14.
“I’m not whining because I wasn’t chosen; don’t get me wrong, that was fine,” Ross said. “If they would have chosen any of the three of those first names that were done correctly, I would have had no problem supporting whoever that candidate was.”
Ross also said the people of Wayne County were not being represented because the list was not formed by the elected executive committee members.
“This was a complete hijacking of the elected people in the executive committee of Wayne County,” he said. “They submitted their names, they were sent to the governor, and it was the people that the citizens of Wayne County selected to serve on that committee.”