CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily blocked a newly appointed state lawmaker from assuming his duties while it considers a challenge to the legality of his appointment.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice announced on Wednesday that he had picked Joshua Booth, a political neophyte and executive at a family-run road contracting firm, to fill the Wayne County seat in the House of Delegates. The chair of the county GOP committee, Jeff Maynard, went to court alleging Justice did not follow the law when he picked Booth over three other candidates put forth by local Republican officials.
The office was formerly held by Derrick Evans, who resigned after he was charged with illegally entering the U.S. Capitol with a mob of Donald Trump supporters on Jan. 6.
The court ordered Justice to file a response to Maynard’s petition by next Monday. It also set oral arguments in the case for Feb. 9 at 2 p.m.
Booth would serve the remaining two years of Evans’ term. Delegates make $20,000 annually, plus a per diem. The 60-day session starts Feb. 10.
“I would like to thank Governor Justice for his faith in me to help the effort to bring jobs and prosperity to Wayne County, West Virginia,” Booth said in a statement.
In his court filing, Maynard said the governor was sent a list of three candidates for the vacancy on Jan. 13. The lawsuit says Justice’s counsel, Brian Abraham, informed Maynard that the governor would draw up a different list because local officials voted on their candidates without the participation of the head of the state Republican party, Roman Stauffer.
Maynard alleges the second list was composed of two of the original candidates and Booth instead of Jay Marcum, a candidate for the same seat in the 19th Delegate District in the 2020 Republican primary.
Justice disputed concerns over the legality of his pick on Wednesday, saying he has been in “constant contact” with the state attorney general’s office on the matter.
Booth is vice president of Highway Safety Inc., a family-owned traffic safety and road work firm based in Huntington. A biography put out by the governor’s office did not reference any political history. It said he graduated from Marshall University and has served on the board of the Contractors Association of West Virginia.
The website for Highway Safety, Inc. says it was founded in 1992 and holds a certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise license in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia for federally funded road work projects. The license gives small firms that are economically and socially disadvantaged a leg-up in bidding for contracts.
“I believe I am as Wayne County as they come, and as such, I think that I share the viewpoints and experiences of my fellow residents,” Booth said in his statement.
Stauffer, who served as campaign manager for Justice’s reelection bid, did not return Twitter messages seeking comment. He ascended to acting chair of the West Virginia Republican Executive Committee on Jan. 11 with the resignation of Melody Potter, who said she needed time to care for her ailing parents.