West Virginia Republican state Senate candidate Andrea Kiessling has a big problem. The votes for her are not going to be counted.
Talk about a campaign setback! Kiessling is, or at least was, in a tight race for the Republican nomination to the state Senate in the 8th District, which includes Roane and Clay counties and parts of Kanawha, Putnam and Jackson.
Kiessling has lost a legal challenge to her residency qualifications. Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom ruled this week that Kiessling is ineligible because she has not lived in West Virginia for the last five years, as required by the state Constitution.
Kiessling testified that she split time between West Virginia and North Carolina, but she always considered West Virginia her home and intended to remain here.
However, Kiessling had strong connections to North Carolina between 2012 and 2021. She maintained a North Carolina driver’s license, paid North Carolina property and income taxes, listed North Carolina as her address for federal income tax returns and owned and operated a business there.
Also, she registered as a voter in North Carolina and voted there several times from 2012 through 2020, an act that “particularly troubled” Judge Bloom. “The Court finds that the act of voting in North Carolina constitutes an admission by her that she had a fixed habitation in North Carolina where she had an intention of returning,” Bloom wrote.
(Read more from Brad McElhinny here.)
Bloom ruled Kiessling does not meet the residency requirement and is ineligible. However, she is on the ballot and early voting is underway. Some have already cast votes for her and more may still.
Bloom directed votes for Kiessling not be counted and that clerks in those five counties in the district post signs saying that Kiessling is not eligible and votes cast for her will not be tabulated.
The legal fight is not over. Kiessling is asking the state Supreme Court for an emergency order to block Judge Bloom’s decision from being enforced. If the Court acts quickly, the already peculiar circumstance surrounding this race could change again.
Sadly, this race is now tainted.
If the court order stands, those voters who already cast ballots for Kiessling are disenfranchised. Had they known sooner they could have chosen to vote for someone else so their votes would not have been wasted.
If the court order is struck down and Kiessling ultimately gains eligibility, her campaign will have been damaged at a critical juncture by the publicity saying she is ineligible.
If the court had put off the issue until after the Primary and she was ultimately declared ineligible, then the district senate committee would appoint a replacement on the ballot. In that case, all the votes for each of the candidates in the race would be irrelevant.
If Kiessling has not met the residency requirement, then she is not an eligible candidate. However this issue should have been raised long before the ballots were printed and early voting was underway.
Then this mess could have been avoided.