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Statehouse Beat: Republican complaints over ballot questions laughable

Phil Kabler

I think we can all agree that Republican complaints of some sort of political chicanery behind the Democratic Executive Committee’s efforts to remove two House of Delegates candidates from the November ballot is laughable.

These are not political smears or even debatable issues. It’s not a matter of semantics; i.e., is a letter sent to constituents in an election year a constituent letter or an electioneering message?

You either meet residency requirements to run in a particular district or you don’t. You either filed required financial disclosures with the secretary of state’s office and Ethics Commission or you didn’t.

In the case of Melissa Lewis, the longtime Morgantown resident (and longtime registered Democrat) that the GOP enlisted to run against Delegate Larry Williams, D-Preston, after Williams declined an invitation to “flip” parties, it seems clear she cannot comply with the requirement that she must have resided in the 52nd Delegate District for at least one year prior to the November election.

She lists her home address as a rental property in Reedsville — a property that the realtor’s website indicated did not become available for rental until last December.

As for Delegate Suzette Raines, R-Kanawha, while she can argue the Democrats are unfairly making an issue of where her place of residence may or may not be, the issue that she failed to file three campaign financial reports with the secretary of state’s office so far this election cycle, and failed to file a financial disclosure with the Ethics Commission (that was due nearly six months ago) is not debatable.

Since by all indications Raines has not been actively campaigning or fundraising, she may well have been eligible to file waivers with the secretary of state’s office for each of the three primary reporting periods, a one-page form verifying she had not raised or spent more than $500 during the time period.

Even filling out a long form shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, assuming she has not received a significant number of contributions.

Likewise, the Ethics financial disclosure is a four-page form that, for candidates who don’t have extensive real estate holdings, stocks and bonds worth in excess of $10,000, or other significant investments, takes only minutes to complete.

That state GOP Chairman Conrad Lucas dismissed the clear violations of state election law and the state Ethics Act as a “clerical error” is troubling. A clerical error is when you transpose numbers on a form. This is clearly a deliberate failure to comply with state law. Would failure to file income taxes also be a “clerical error?”

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Unless they don’t meet residency requirements, or don’t want the world to know they’re vagrants living out of their cars, I fail to understand candidates who are evasive about disclosing their place of residence.

While it is evident that Raines no longer lives at the address listed in House publications and on her certificate of candidacy, 850 Jonash Lane in St. Albans, she has not been forthcoming in stating where she currently lives.

Raines didn’t return my calls, and in a statement to the Daily Mail, “didn’t specifically say where she’s living.”

Which reminds me of Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, who confirmed in the June 2 column he had moved out of a rental house at 5113 Briar Meadow Drive, Cross Lanes, in March because the rent had gotten too high.

At the time, he declined to say where he had moved, except to say he was still in the 38th Delegate District, and said he would update his address on campaign financial reports and state business licenses as they became due.

However, on campaign finance reports filed June 3 and July 7, Lane still lists the Briar Meadow address as his residence.

On the 2014 annual report for WV Fro Yo LLC (the frozen yogurt store franchise he owns with Delegate Ron Walters, R-Kanawha) filed with the Business and Licensing Division of the secretary of state’s office, Lane lists his current address as 5306 Lisa Court, Unit #1505, Cross Lanes.

That keeps him in the 38th District, but it’s a far cry from the four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath house (that recently sold for $295,000) that he used to live in. Don’t want to cast aspersions, but the Lisa Court apartment complex looks like the kind of place where reporters might live ...

(Lane also still lists the Briar Meadow address as his residence on the Legislature’s website.)

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Finally, this could go down as the summer of snakes at the Capitol (readers may insert snide comments here). It culminated last week with a two-day search to find and kill a copperhead spotted near the Building 5 office tower.

However, Protective Services reports other run-ins with snakes on campus, including having to remove a bunch of blacksnakes from the Capitol parking building, as well as a snake that had found its way into the south portico of the main Capitol building.

A guest appearance by Samuel L. Jackson may be in order if the snake infestation worsens.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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