Armstead resigns to run for Supreme Court

CHARLESTON — The speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates resigned Tuesday after 20 years, choosing to run in a special election for a seat on the state Supreme Court.

House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, announced his resignation in a statement at noon Tuesday. He filed paperwork Tuesday to run for the special election for the Supreme Court of Appeals Division 1, which is the seat vacated by former justice Menis Ketchum.

“Because there is a little more than two months for me to connect with our citizens throughout the state before the election, I want to spend as much time as possible meeting West Virginians and earning their trust and their votes to represent them on their Supreme Court of Appeals,” Armstead said.

Armstead was appointed to fill a vacancy in the House of Delegates by former Gov. Cecil Underwood in 1998, winning election that same year. He served a number of years as the House minority leader when Democrats held the majority. When the Republicans won the majority in 2014 for the first time in more than 80 years, Armstead was elected House speaker.

“It has been a tremendous honor to represent the people of the Elk River communities and northern Kanawha County in the House for the past two decades,” Armstead said. “It has also been a privilege to serve as the Speaker of the House of Delegates for nearly four years. It will always be one of the greatest joys and honors of my life to serve in the West Virginia Legislature and I hope that the people of our state will give me the opportunity to serve them again in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.”

During the 2018 legislative session, Armstead announced he would not seek re-election to the House. He also announced his intentions at that time to seek a Supreme Court seat in the future. That opportunity came sooner rather than later when Gov. Jim Justice called a special session for the impeachment of sitting Supreme Court justices.

Ketchum resigned July 27 before impeachment proceedings began. After an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee, the full House voted for 11 articles of impeachment on Aug. 13. Justice Robin Davis announced her resignation from the court the next day.

The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission announced the names of applicants for the vacated seats, including Armstead. Any appointment to the vacated seats would only be until a special election on Nov. 6. The two seats were split into divisions, with Ketchum’s seat being division 1 and Davis’ seat being division 2.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, there are 15 candidates for the Supreme Court, with 11 of those running for division 1. The winner of division 1 will serve out the remainder of Ketchum’s 12-year term, which ends in 2020.

“Although the Secretary of State’s Office has said that it is not required that I resign from the House in order to run for the court, I want to ensure that my candidacy fully complies with all state laws and standards of conduct and is above question,” Armstead said.