Judiciary passes Campbell’s party registration bill

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

Should there be limits on how long a citizen belongs to a political party before being allowed to seek office via that party? 

HB5373, sponsored by Delegate Jeff Campbell (R-Greenbrier), requires that candidates for elected office (or appointments to elected office) belong to their political party for at least 60 days prior to any election or appointment. 

On Friday morning, just days before the deadline for bills to make it out of their respective houses, the Judiciary Committee added it to their agenda for discussion.

The bill applies only to partisan offices. It pertains to both elections and appointments and says,  “With the exception of those candidates who have never before been registered to vote in the state of West Virginia, the candidate must have been a member of and affiliated with that political party for a minimum of 60 days before the date of filing the announcement.”

The effect would be, for example, that someone seeking a seat in the House of Delegates as a Republican would need to be registered as a Republican for at least 60 days prior to filing for office or being appointed. 

While Delegate Campbell did not respond to a request for comment on his bill, it does correlate with his own experience.

Delegate Campbell has been appointed to the House on two occasions, in 2017 as a Democrat and 2023 as a Republican. He was elected in 2018 as a Democrat, defeated in 2020, switched parties in July 2021 to Republican, and then appointed to the House as a Republican September 2023.

Committee adopts two amendments

After nearly an hour of debate on the bill, the Judiciary Committee adopted two amendments. 

The first amendment by Delegate Steve Westfall, (R-Jackson) changed the timeline from 60 days to one year. (An attempt was made to lengthen the timeline to two years, but it was voted down overwhelmingly by the committee.) 

The second amendment by Delegate Joey Garcia (D-Marion) added a clause clarifying that when an appointment is made it must go to someone in the party that the person leaving office was elected to. He explained a situation several years ago when a senator switched parties and resigned, causing a vacancy. 

Garcia, who previously worked in the governor’s office, said that situation caused confusion. “Two lists were provided from executive committees in his county, from the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The governor selected somebody from the Democratic party with the idea that it really should be from the party where the people elected somebody.” 

Numerous Republicans spoke in favor of Del. Garcia’s amendment, including Delegate Bill Ridenhour (R-Jefferson. “This is reflective of what the people voted for. That’s what we should get back to, what the people want, not what an individual decided to do at some point during his tenure.” 

The amendment passed unanimously, and the bill passed on a voice vote. 

While the bill heads to the House, the calendar could play a role. All House bills must pass out of the House by February 28 in order to remain alive and be considered by the Senate this session. 

Stay tuned to RealWV for updates.

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