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Justice names NAACP President Owens Brown to open Senate seat

Gov. Jim Justice today named Owens Brown, president of the West Virginia NAACP, to a vacant state Senate seat.

Brown takes the place of state Senator Bill Ihlenfeld, who was confirmed this week to be the federal prosecutor for northern West Virginia. He will represent District 1, which includes Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and part of Marshall counties.

Late last month, Justice named another new member of the state Senate — retired Shepherd University political science professor Hannah Geffert, who will serve in the 16th Senatorial District seat vacated by the resignation of longtime Senator John Unger.

Brown and Geffert will serve in the Democratic caucus until the next election in 2022.

Owens Brown

Justice today said he knows Brown and is proud to name him to the position.

“He is now going to be the first African-American serving in our Senate for over 20 years. I congratulate him beyond belief,” Justice said.

The other candidates for the Senate seat in the Northern Panhandle included former state delegate Randy Swartzmiller and Del. Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio.

Brown has been West Virginia NAACP president since 2015.

Marie Redd was the first Black woman elected to the state Senate, in 1998, representing Cabell and part of Wayne counties. She was defeated by Evan Jenkins in the 2002 primary election.

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