BECKLEY, WV (LOOTPRESS) – State Republican Chair Mark Harris conducted his duties this evening as Chair of the Raleigh County GOP for the final time. Harris, citing his duties to the State GOP, relinquished his chairmanship towards the end of the meeting, Tuesday at Leisure Lanes. However, he spent the first part of the meeting filling four vacant positions on the County Executive Committee.
Though not Harris’ birthday, as the decorations of the party room at Leisure Lanes portrayed, Harris clearly made the guest list for the evening’s festivities as if it were. The room was filled with more attendees than had been previously seen at a County GOP meeting in Raleigh County in many years.
In attendance were members of the church Harris serves as pastor, another fellow minister he serves with at the Beaver Volunteer Fire Department, multiple members of the Beaver VFD, Harris’ wife, mother, and children, Senator Rollan Roberts, Delegates Chris Toney and Brandon Steele, and several other members of the current County Executive Committee.
Harris began the meeting filling four vacant positions on the County Executive Committee. First, he nominated Case Poling for the male position of Magisterial District 1. Poling, who described himself as a full-time student at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, accepted the nomination of District 1 rep for Raleigh County. Poling, while was not on the committee, held the proxy of Kyle Saunders, the other male rep from District 1. Only current members could nominate a candidate and vote. After Harris nominated Poling, the motion was seconded, and Poling was confirmed by what appeared to be a unanimous vote. Poling exercised the proxy of Kyle Saunders to vote for himself.
Notably, Delegates Steele and Toney are both elected members of the legislature from District 1, but neither had input on the Harris nomination as neither are on the Executive Committee. Also creating some private commentary was the fact that Poling challenged Toney in the 2020 primary. Poling lost to Toney, who is serving his second term in the state House of Delegates.
Harris continued the evening by either nominating or moving that his mother, Shirley Harris, be transitioned from the 2nd District at-large representative station to 1st District at-large position. While Harris presented no legal basis for having one magisterial district be represented by someone that does not live there, the committee apparently had no questions regarding the change, and approved the motion by another unanimous vote.
Harris then nominated Teresa Dennison to the 2nd District female seat, which was seconded and unanimously approved by the committee. In the 3rd District, long time male representative Bill Chapman was resigning, as reported by Harris. Harris then nominated Senator Rollan Roberts for the seat, which motion was seconded and confirmed by a unanimous vote by the committee.
The final nomination carried out by Harris was to nominate Will and Michelle Davis, of Grandview Christian Church, to the 9th Senatorial District Committee. That Committee would only become active in the event of a vacancy in Senate District 9, which is served by Senator Roberts and Senator Bugs Stover of Wyoming County. The nominations were seconded and a unanimous vote carried the room again.
More than half of the committee was represented during the evening by Harris, Harris’s family, and the proxies held by Harris and Case Poling. By all counts, only two persons voting during the evening had actually been elected to the Raleigh County Executive Committee.
Harris himself had never been elected, but only nominated and confirmed in similar fashion a few years ago when he became active after relocating to Raleigh County from South Carolina.
Harris continued the meeting through some business concerning the raffle of a firearm to raise money for the committee and the planning of a social event at the church of the newly-minted Senatorial District Committee. However, Harris’ attention eventually turned to what likely prompted the increased turnout at the County GOP meeting: The pending Resignation of Delegate Jeff Pack of the 28th District.
As Lootpress reported last week, Pack is expected to resign August 1, 2021 upon accepting a position with the state Department of Health and Human Resources as Commissioner of Social Services. Harris mentioned the news to remind the body that a Delegate District Selection Committee would need to be appointed by the County GOP Chairman as no one had run for the Senate committee positions in the 2018 election. At this point, after some explanation by Harris of the procedure, Delegate Steele addressed the committee.
Steele informed the committee that after some research, it was confirmed that Jeff Pack could serve on that Selection Committee. Steele pointed out Pack’s service, his high station in the House as a major committee chairman, and his accomplishments for the District uniquely qualified him as to be the best choice for one of the two positions on the selection committee. Most in the room seemed to agree.
It was with this news, though, that Harris announced he would be resigning as County GOP Chair, citing his conflicting responsibilities as State GOP Chair.
Harris’ resignation, seemingly instantly offered and approved, was followed by Harris nominating Rollan Roberts to serve as Chairman of the County GOP Committee. Roberts, who had by now been on the committee for 30 minutes, introduced himself as the “Supermajority Caucus Chairman, and the Chairman of the Chairmen.” He boasted that he serves on over 30 committees in the Senate, and also was responsible as the liaison to the House of Delegates.
Roberts has grown accustomed to introducing himself in similar fashion. Some in attendance speculated by whispering, “I can only wonder how he will describe himself now (after adding the County GOP title).”
How Harris retained the ability to nominate after resigning is unknown, and was not questioned by anyone in attendance. Again, the committee unanimously confirmed Roberts as the new chairman, but not before several questions were asked.
Delegate Steele, citing rumors that he had heard, asked Harris if he was resigning to seek the appointment to the 28th District House seat being vacated by Pack. Harris responded that he was resigning due to the conflict with the State GOP.
Steele then reminded Harris that he had told Steele just a few months prior that the state and county bylaws allowed for Harris to hold both posts. Harris backtracked at that point to say it was really just a problem carrying out the duties of both offices.
When asked directly if he was going to seek the appointment to the House seat while holding the State Party Chair position, Harris stated that he did not know at this time. He said he had thought about seeking it and not seeking it and had not made up his mind.
Steele then asked Roberts whether Roberts would appoint Pack to the Selection Committee as chairman. Roberts stated that it was too early for him to know, and he would have to pray about it.
Michelle Davis asked if she would be able to nominate anyone and she was told she could not as she was not on the executive committee. This fact, as previously noted, apparently did not block Harris from nominating Roberts after he (Harris) had resigned from the committee. The vote was then held, and Roberts was unanimously confirmed as the new chair.
Apparently ignoring the previous ten minutes of parliamentary procedure, Roberts then, as his first official act as chairman, nominated Harris to the District 3 male representative post. The motion was seconded, and Harris was unanimously confirmed as the District 3 representative.
The meeting concluded without naming anyone to serve on the House Delegate Executive Committee to choose Pack’s eventual replacement. Apparently another meeting of the county executive committee will be called to do that when the delegate resigns to start work at DHHR.