Ousted GOP chair’s suit looms over state party meeting

Updated 3 weeks ago Special to HuntingtonNews.Net

By Lawrence J. Smith

 

CHARLESTON – For West Virginia Republicans, the elephant in the room at this weekend’s gathering in White Sulphur Springs is the on-going feud between two of their leaders.

 

The state Republican Executive Committee is conducting its annual summer meeting at the Greenbrier Resort, owned by the family of Gov. Jim Justice.  Elected in 2016 as a Democrat, Justice switched parties the following year.

 

Justice made the announcement at a rally in Huntington with President Donald J. Trump.

 

Chairwoman Melody Potter on June 18 removed Rob Cornelius as chairman of the Wood County Executive Committee following comments he made critical of Potter supportive of Justice prior to next May’s primary election.  Justice faces opposition from former Delegate Michael Folk, and former Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher.

 

After an unsuccessful internal appeal, Cornelius filed notice with the state Attorney General’s Office his intention to file suit contesting his removal.  He made good on it Wednesday.

 

In a writ of mandamus filed in Kanawha Circuit Court, Cornelius alleges Potter violated both Executive Committee by-laws, and state law by removing him “unilaterally,” As such, he maintains an updated list Potter later submitted to Secretary of State Mac Warner, who is named as co-respondent in the suit, appointing six new county executive committee members including Jim Conley as “acting chairman” is invalid.

 

Huntington News.net attempted to speak with executive committee members T-Anne See, Cabell County Executive Committee chairwoman, and Alvin Bowyer regarding the meeting in light of Cornelius’ suit.  Both were not immediately available for comment.

 

Del. Dan Linville, a member of the county executive committee, said the committee has taken a position in support of Potter.  Regardless, Linville said he’s hopefully the discord can be resolved well before the campaign season begins.

 

“As a legislator, the disunity has been frustrating,” Linville said. “We’ve got to focus on the upcoming election, and get conservatives elected in 2020.”

 

Del. Joshua Higginbotham, a member of both the state, and Putnam County Executive committees, agrees the disunity is not helpful.  However, he said the county committee circulated a letter a few weeks ago critical of Potter’s leadership.

 

 The issues they have with Potter, Higginbotham said, has nothing to do with her support of Justice.  Instead, it’s more to do with “questionable strategies” she’s taken such as Cornelius’ removal, and the creation of scorecards on state legislators.

 

“We certainly want her behavior to change,” Higginbotham said.

 

Cornelius’ suit is assigned to Judge Joanna I. Tabit. He is represented by Anthony Majestro with the Charleston law firm of Majestro and Powell. 

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