CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A delegate has announced his departure from the Legislature because he’s becoming a lobbyist for the natural gas giant Dominion Resources.
Delegate Jason Harshbarger, R-Ritchie, submitted his resignation letter today. He also had a local newspaper article to inform constituents of his departure.
Harshbarger, 44, said in both that he is departing August 30 because of a new job that will occupy much of his time.
“I am sorry to be leaving before my term is complete,” Harshbarger stated in The Pennsboro News. “However, due to a new role at my employer, I can no longer perform my duties with the focus and dedication they deserve.”
Harshbarger has been an employee of Dominion Resources for the past 14 years.
A spokeswoman for Dominion confirmed Harshbarger’s new position, saying that although he starts right away he won’t lobby the Legislature for a year.
“Beginning this September, Harshbarger will become the new state policy director for Dominion Energy following the retirement of Bob Orndorff after 24 years with the company,” stated company spokeswoman Samantha B. Norris.
“While mentoring Harshbarger for this new role, Orndorff will remain with Dominion Energy, serving as lobbyist through the end of the 2020 legislative season. Jason will not be lobbying the WV Legislature for a year from his date of resignation from the House of Delegates.”
Harshbarger was elected to the House in 2016 and started serving in 2017. He was re-elected in 2018. He has served as chairman of the Natural Resources Committee.
The House seat was previously occupied by another Republican, Woody Ireland.
Harshbarger’s opponent in last year’s General Election, Democrat Lissa Lucas, said she isn’t surprised by the move from legislator to lobbyist.
“This is exactly how our rigged political system works: bought politicians look out for their own personal financial interests, rather than represent the working families in their districts,” Lucas stated.
“So, his making the Dominion lobbying position official just means he’s now being more straightforward about whom he’s really working for. He did the job his donors told him to do –took away property rights, voted against educators and public employees, and so on — so now he gets that hinted-at reward.”
Lucas is now the communications director for Democrat Stephen Smith’s campaign for governor.
She suggested there will be pushes for whoever replaces Harshbarger in the Legislature.
“I expect that Dominion, Antero, EQT, and so on are right now consulting about whom they could get behind next for appointment — someone else who’s really good at taking money and orders, I have no doubt,” Lucas stated.
Gov. Jim Justice will now appoint a new delegate from a list of three qualified applicants to be provided by the Republican executive committee from the 7th Delegate District, which covers portions of Pleasants and Ritchie counties.
The House of Delegates expects to have a new delegate in place by the next round of interim meetings, which begin Sept. 23.