Emily Allen Published

Governor Sued By Local Republican After Naming Replacement for Derrick Evans In W.Va. House

Joshua Booth

Gov. Jim Justice has appointed a new person to replace a former state delegate who resigned earlier in January following federal charges for participating in an insurrection that turned violent at the U.S. Capitol.

Justice’s appointment is met by a 17-page writ of mandamus from a local Republican leader, arguing that the governor violated state laws with his final pick for office.

Joshua Booth, a Republican in Kenova, Wayne County, will join 99 others in the House of Delegates for the 2021 legislative session on Feb. 10.

Booth is vice president of Highway Safety, Inc., in Huntington, a traffic safety and construction firm, according to a press release from Justice’s office. He graduated from the old Ceredo-Kenova high school in 1998 and later graduated from Marshall University with a degree in business administration.

“Mr. Booth replaces Del. Derrick Evans after his resignation earlier this month,” Justice said during a virtual press briefing Wednesday. “I feel confident that Joshua Booth will do a wonderful job for the people of West Virginia.”

Meanwhile, chairman Jeff Maynard of the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee said he’s never heard of Booth.

“And per some of the committee people, when his [Booth’s] name came up, the committee people didn’t know of him, hadn’t heard of him, it didn’t ring a bell,” Maynard said.

Maynard was not on the committee of District 19 Republicans that interviewed candidates to replace Evans. Although Maynard resides in Wayne County, he lives outside District 19.

Maynard recruited attorney John Bryan to help file a writ against Justice earlier this week.

Bryan also represented Evans in his response to charges from the federal government for entering a restricted area and disorderly conduct.

While Booth was not one of the three names on a list of candidates that Maynard’s committee selected, Booth was included in a different list, prepared by the chair of the statewide Republican party.

“The governor does not have the discretion to choose from a second and subsequent list of qualified candidates, which would usurp the statutory rights of the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee members of the 19th Delegate District, as well as their constituents,” the writ says.

According to a section of state code regarding vacancies in the legislature, the governor is to select replacements in the House from a list “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.”

WVGOP Chair Roman Stauffer declined to comment. Representatives from the governor’s office, including Chief of Staff Brian Abraham, did not respond to requests for additional information.

In his Wednesday press briefing, Justice said that his office is in contact with the state attorney general.

“We believe wholeheartedly that the second letter [from the West Virginia GOP] is the legitimate letter,” Justice said.

Meanwhile, Maynard said he has reason to believe this writ will cost him his position as Wayne County chairman. He likened his objections to that of former Wood County GOP Chair Rob Cornelius, who has said that the state GOP removed him in 2019 due his criticisms of Justice.

“That’s the problem with politics, a bunch of underhanded stuff like this takes place,” Maynard said. “Decent people that would be good for the people do not get involved, because of situations like this.”

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals had no updates to announce on the writ Wednesday evening.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.