by Ron Gregory
HUNTINGTON — Putnam County officials say the name of Darrell W. “Peachie” Arthur will remain on the general election ballot after a ruling by Chief Federal Judge Robert C. Chambers last week.
In a case brought by District 16 House of Delegates candidate Naomi Spencer Daly of the Socialist Equality Party, the judge ruled that one of the elements laid out in a recent West Virginia Supreme Court ruling was essentially unconstitutional. That requirement was being used to remove Arthur from the ballot in Putnam as well. When Judge Chambers ruled in the Daly case, his ruling permitted Arthur to return to the ballot on November 8 as well.
The ruling came after weeks of confusion at the state level resulting from the filing of former State Senator Erik Wells for Kanawha County Clerk. Wells followed procedures previously approved and outlined by the Secretary of State’s office. Others, such as Arthur and Daly, had used the same petition method to gain ballot presence. One part of the state court ruling held that candidates, even if using the petition rather than primary method of gaining ballot access, had to file a certificate of announcement in a timely manner. That was interpreted to mean such certificates had to be filed in January of each filing cycle.
While Wells had filed a certificate, it was not filed in January since he did not decide to seek the office until much later. Arthur, who previously served as a Democrat Putnam County Assessor, also did not file a certificate of announcement in January.
The major obstacle the state court used in removing Wells from the ballot was that he was attempting to run as an independent for County Clerk when he was a registered Democrat. Arthur is — and has been — an Independent after earlier switching from Democrat to Republican.
A law clerk for Chambers said no formal written opinion has been issued yet. She said, however, that a memorandum on the court’s Website essentially explains the decision. Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood said that information he received following last week’s decision was “to list Darrell Arthur on the ballot.” That permitted Wood to have ballots printed, he said.
Wood praised Chambers for “hearing the case in a timely manner and giving us instructions in a timely manner. He knew we were up against a tight deadline.”
Arthur’s presence on the ballot may set up an intriguing race. Ronald Reagan Foster defeated two opponents in the Republican primary for commission after current Republican member R. Joseph Haynes decided not to run. Mark Whitt was unopposed in the Democrat primary. Now, the three (Foster, Whitt and Arthur) will all be listed on the November 8 ballot.
The current Putnam Commission is entirely Republican. In addition to Haynes, members are Stephen Andes and Andy Skidmore.
The case, in the Federal court’s Southern West Virginia District, is listed as 3:1608981 for those seeking additional information.