Would-be Kanawha commission candidate won't get on ballot, judge rules
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sally Shepherd will not be allowed to add her name to the ballot to run for Kanawha County Commission, Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom ruled Tuesday.
Shepherd, a former conservation officer and candidate for state agriculture commissioner, mailed her candidacy papers to run for county commission before the Jan. 25 filing deadline, but sent her paperwork to the wrong office. Under state law, candidates for statewide office file with the secretary of state's office, but candidates for county office must file with their local county clerk.
Shepherd, a Democrat, said she realized her mistake the afternoon of Jan. 25, after she had already mailed in her candidacy papers to the secretary of state's office. She testified before Bloom that she had originally planned to drive from her Sissonville home to Charleston to file in the right place, but was held up by a snowstorm.
Lawyers for Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick gave the judge paperwork that showed other candidates from Sissonville had driven to Charleston on the same date to file for office.
Shepherd testified that she initially gave up on running for county commission, but later found out about two instances where candidates had made mistakes in filing for office and had been allowed on the ballot anyway.
Her attorneys, John Kennedy Bailey and Walton "Tony" Shepherd (who is Sally Shepherd's husband), noted that she paid her filing fee and mailed her application on time.
Sally Shepherd acknowledged under cross-examination that she had gone to the secretary of state's office to try to file for Democratic Executive Committee several days before filing for county commission, and been told she had to file at the county clerk's office instead.
Shepherd's lawyers argued that despite her mistakes were in "substantial compliance" with state law, and that she should be allowed on the ballot. But the judge and McCormick's attorneys disagreed.
State law says that candidates "shall" file with the correct office in order to be placed on the ballot. Bloom said "shall" is a very specific legal term making compliance with the law mandatory.
"The statute is unambiguous," he said.
After the ruling, Shepherd said she would not appeal the decision.
Reach Rusty Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1215.