W.Va. high court denies petition to remove Helmick from race

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Feb 28, 2012



CHARLESTON - The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on Monday denied a former state agriculture department official's petition requesting that a state senator be removed from the race for Agriculture Commissioner.

L. Joe Starcher, a retired veterinarian with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, filed his writ late Friday.

In his petition, Starcher argued that Sen. Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, is unqualified for the job of Agriculture Commissioner because he hasn't made his living from farming, as required under West Virginia code.

In particular, state law requires the commissioner to be a farmer whose "chief business" has been agriculture for at least 10 years.

Starcher claimed Helmick doesn't meet the requirement.

On Monday, the state's high court issued a two-paragraph order, denying Starcher's writ.

"Upon consideration whereof, the Court is of the opinion that a rule should not be awarded, and the writ prayed for by the petitioner is hereby refused as premature, without prejudice for the petitioner to file an appropriate action in circuit court to permit development of an adequate factual record to allow a full and complete consideration of the issues," the justices wrote.

Helmick is one of five Democratic candidates looking to replace longtime Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass, who is retiring, this year.

The others include Sally Shepherd of Kanawha County, Steve Miller of Mineral County, former state Delegate Bob Tabb and Joe Messineo of Roane County.

The only GOP candidate in the race, Mike Teets, announced earlier this month he was dropping out for personal reasons.

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