Tom Azinger to replace late Frank Deem on ballot

Wood County GOP selects former delegate in unanimous vote

PARKERSBURG — Former House of Delegates member Tom Azinger was appointed Thursday night by the Wood County Republican Party Executive Committee to replace Frank Deem, who passed away Wednesday, on the Nov. 6 general election ballot for the House District 10 seat.

Azinger was selected in a unanimous vote of the 12 executive committee members during an emergency meeting, Wood County GOP Chairman Rob Cornelius said.

It was necessary to fill Deem’s spot on the ballot as soon as possible because of changes needed to absentee, early and electronic voting methods in Wood County, Cornelius said.

“Tom Azinger gives us a fighting chance to keep the seat,” Cornelius said. Azinger represented the 10th District in the House of Delegates for 20 years beginning in 1994. He also served on Vienna City Council.

A separate appointment process will take place to fill Deem’s seat for the remainder of the term, which ends in January.

Forms and necessary paperwork on Azinger’s appointment will be filed with the W.Va. Secretary of State and the Wood County Commission by morning, Cornelius said Thursday. This will allow for near-immediate changes to be made to absentee, early and electronic voting methods in Wood County, he said.

“We mourn the loss of Delegate Deem, but are blessed to have a man the quality of Delegate Azinger to offer the voters this fall in his absence,” said Cornelius. “Tom Azinger was a conservative voice for 20 years in Charleston and more recently in his time on the Vienna City Council. We look forward to sending him back to the Capitol to join the Republican Party’s Comeback Story for West Virginia.”

In filling the remainder of Deem’s term, the GOP executive committee has 15 days from the death of the member to interview interested and qualified Republicans from the district, and vote to select three to be sent to the governor for the appointment, Cornelius said. The governor has five days to complete that task, he said.

Interested individuals have until close of business (5 p.m.) on Wednesday, Oct. 17 to submit resumes/cover letters. They must be received on or by Oct. 17 at, or by postal mail to PO Box 4737, Parkersburg, WV 26104, or can be hand-delivered to GOP Campaign Headquarters at 146 Park Shopping Center (adjacent to Rural King) from noon to 5 p.m. or longer, Monday-Saturday, Cornelius said.

Individuals who apply will be contacted and given an appointment for an interview with the executive committee, which will most likely be held the evening of Oct. 23, Cornelius said.

Applicants should be registered Republicans who meet the qualifications in the state Constitution and W.Va. Code, most specifically being of legal voting age, and, a Republican and resident of the Tenth House District continuously for the last year or longer, Cornelius said.

Deem, 90, had been serving West Virginia’s House District 10 for the last four years and was running for re-election at the time of his death. Three seats in the 10th District will be decided in November and candidates in multi-representative districts against each other regardless of party affiliation.

The other two Republicans for the district are incumbent Delegates Vernon Criss and John Kelly. The three Democrats running for District 10 are J. Morgan Leach, Harry Deitzler and Andy Daniel.

Cornelius Wednesday informed party members of Deem’s passing in an email.

“Our thoughts are with his family, friends and members of the House today,” he said. “While it is fair to say that I have had my differences with Frank throughout the years, I salute his long and distinguished service to the people of Wood County and to West Virginia.

“He was a colorful character that the House of Delegates will miss dearly. I thank Frank for his years of conservative, faithful service.”

Mike Queen, spokesman for the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, said the situation was unique and has required Republican Party officials in Wood County to move quickly to address it.

Citing WV Code 3-5-19, Cornelius said the law states that in an instance like this, the appropriate local Party Committee “may” replace a deceased person on the ballot any time up through 22 days before the general election.

Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes said 106 absentee ballots have been mailed, which included the race for the 10th Delegate District, with 21 having been returned.

Rhodes said the plan is to send another ballot to everyone who sent a ballot in with the new candidate’s name on a label pasted over Deem’s name and a letter of explanation as to why they were receiving another ballot.

Queen said Rhodes has reached out to them and the plan to send out new ballots has their office’s support.

“That is the most fair way to do it,” he said.

The ballots already sent in will be placed aside and locked up. If the county receives the second ballot, they will count that one. If not, they will go with the original ballot, Rhodes said.

The absentee ballots will not be opened until Election Day, he said adding the ballots will be separated.

The media that has the ballot to load on to the electronic voting machines will have to be reloaded to reflect the change.

Rhodes recently received the media to put into the voting machines to load up the ballot. He had already started working on loading the media into the voting machines that will be used for early voting.

“I will have to do those over,” he said.

The company that handles burning that media has informed Rhodes they can have a quick turnaround and have the media for the voting machines ready to load so the county can be ready for early voting beginning Oct. 24, he said.