A committee of elected Democratic Party leaders is set to meet Friday in Romney, W.Va., to nominate three candidates for consideration to complete the unexpired term of former state Sen. Walt Helmick.
The 15th District Senate Democratic Executive Committee is slated to meet at 10 a.m. at the Bank of Romney Community Center, said Bill Yearout, who, along with Rosalie Bernick, serves as Berkeley County’s representative on the 18-member panel.
The meeting is open to the public, Yearout said.
The committee is comprised of two representatives from each of the nine counties that were part of the 15th District when Helmick was elected to a four-year term in 2010.
Helmick resigned Monday from the Senate seat to be sworn in as the state’s commissioner of agriculture.
The 15th District was redrawn after Helmick’s election due to the 2010 census and now only includes three of the nine counties from the old district — Berkeley, Morgan and Hampshire.
The executive committee, however, may still nominate candidates from the old district for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s consideration in making the appointment, according to state code and Yearout.
The old 15th District includes all or a portion of Randolph, Upshur, Pocahontas, Pendleton, Grant, Hardy, Hampshire, Morgan and Berkeley counties.
The newly appointed senator cannot come from Berkeley County because state Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, was elected last fall to the other 15th District seat, Yearout said.
Candidates from Randolph County also are not eligible to be appointed because state Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, was re-elected in November.
Yearout said he is hopeful the new senator will be from Hampshire or Morgan counties because, as it stands now, an appointee from another county would have to run against an incumbent in another Senate district.
“There’s a general feeling that we should not appoint a bench warmer,” Yearout said.
Yearout said about 60 percent of the voters in the newly defined 15th District are in Berkeley County, but added that he believes the new senator’s agenda should be for all of eastern West Virginia, not just the three-county “tip” of the Panhandle.
People are “touchy” about what counties comprise the Eastern Panhandle, Yearout said.
Eastern West Virginia’s state senators
(Last senator to serve in the state Senate by county)
Grant: George B. Harman, 1919-21
Pendleton: B.H. Hiner, 1927-31
Morgan: Harvey D. Beeler, 1947-49
Mineral: Harley O. Staggers Jr., 1981-82
Hampshire: Vernon C. Whitacre,1983-88
Hardy: Thomas J. Hawse III, 1989-92
Tucker: Sara Minear, 1995-2005
Pocahontas: Walt Helmick, 1989-2013
Randolph: Clark S. Barnes, 2005 -
Berkeley: Craig Blair, 2013 -
Berkeley: John Unger, 1999 -
Jefferson: Herb Snyder, 1997-2003, 2005-
Source: West Virginia Blue Book