Judge files order rejecting challenge of Reed residency

by Kate Shunney

A Kanawha County Circuit judge has denied a Morgan County man’s petition to block Ken Reed from appearing on the Republican primary ballot as a candidate for the House of Delegates representing the 59th district.

Reed is currently a Morgan County Commissioner seeking the state legislative seat. He is running against Republican Delegate Larry Kump of Berkeley County in the GOP primary.

Howard Stone filed a lawsuit asking the court to keep Reed off the ballot or not count any votes cast for him. Stone argued that Reed didn’t meet the state law saying a candidate has to live for a year in the district where they are seeking a seat.

Circuit Judge Tera Salango rejected that claim, and in an order filed on May 8, denied Stone’s emergency petition to block Reed from the ballot.

According to the court document, Reed testified and provided documentation at an April 21 hearing to prove he does live at the address listed on his candidate filing and his voter registration. Judge Salango noted Reed had shown multiple documents, including a driver’s license, state tax and health benefit information and personal mail, all listing his address in 11000 block Martinsburg Road.

Stone had argued in his lawsuit that Reed and his family live in a residence they own in the 4000 block of Martinsburg Road – which would make Reed ineligible to run for office in the 59th district, which begins further east.

According to the order, Reed testified that he and his wife had moved to the home in the 11000 block of Martinsburg Road because it was smaller and “better reflected the needs of his current family circumstances, with all four of his children graduating from high school and moving off the college.”

In court testimony, Reed told the court he is intending to sell the larger home to his son.

The judge said County Clerk Kim Nickles also testified during the April 21 hearing, confirming that Reed had changed his voter registration in June 2018 to the address in eastern Morgan County. Nickles told the court she had dismissed a local challenge to Reed’s voter registration.

Judge Salango noted in her order that Stone had waited nearly three months to file his lawsuit about Reed’s residency.

“By the time of this Court’s hearing on the Emergency Petition for Mandamus, several hundred absentee ballots had already been mailed to residents of the 59th Delegate District, with at least 162 of those ballots having been already returned,” the judge wrote.

“A determination at this time that Respondent Reed is ineligible after ballots have already been mailed and votes have already been cast could disenfranchise many of those who have already cast their votes in the 59th Delegate District,” the order says.

Judge Salango pointed out that Stone still has avenues to challenge the eligibility of Reed as a candidate or contest the election results.