Supreme Court upholds Prosecuting Attorney election results
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals denied a petition from Arbovale resident Cheryl McCullough to void the votes cast for Pocahontas County Prosecutor-elect Eugene Simmons in November’s general election and to declare outgoing Prosecuting Attorney Donna Price the winner.
While it is currently in recess, the court issued its expedited opinion on Decem- ber 21.
By denying the petition in its three-to-two opinion, the court effectively upheld the results of November’s general election.
Justices Robin Davis and Margaret Workman voted in the minority to grant McCullough’s petition.
Filed by McCullough on December 4, the petition for writ of mandamus described the outcome of November’s race for Prosecuting Attorney as an “election swindle” that allegedly robbed Pocahontas County residents of the right to a legally elected Prosecutor. The petition named West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and Pocahontas County Clerk Missy Bennett as respondents.
Bennett said she had not yet seen the opinion, which was mailed to McCullough and the respondents on December 27. Bennett referred a request for comment to attorneys at Steptoe and Johnson, who were unavailable for comment Monday morning.
Simmons and McCullough were also unable to be reached for comment Monday morning.
The incumbent Price won a three-way race for the Democratic nomination in the May primary. With no candidates in the Republican primary, Price appeared to have secured reelection. However, shortly after the primary, Simmons gathered signatures on a Minor Party or Independent Candidate Nomination Petition to gain a spot on the ballot for the November general election.
As he gathered signatures and presented his petition to the County Clerk’s office, Simmons remained a registered Democrat and stated that party’s affiliation on his petition. Simmons gathered a total of 34 signatures. According to West Virginia’s election laws, Simmons needed needed 25 signatures. Of those who signed the petition, 15 were Democrats, 11 were Republicans and eight claimed no party affiliation.
McCullough’s petition contended that only those eight unaffiliated signers should have been counted, as the Democrat and Republican signers already had an opportunity to nominate their parties’ respective candidates in the May primary. Because of this, McCullough’s petition concluded that election officials should not have placed Simmons’ name on the November ballot.
Justices Menis Ketchum, Brent Benjamin and Thomas McHugh saw otherwise when they issued their December 21 opinion.
Speaking earlier in December, McCullough said she was considering two other avenues to challenge the election, based on what she describes as additional discrepancies in Simmons’ election filings.
Drew Tanner may be contacted at datanner@poca hontastimes.com