PARKERSBURG – You don’t really think a lot about your right to free speech until you lose it. Or until someone tries to take it from you by force.
And that’s the very crux of why I’ve spent so much of the last month entrenched in our state’s political news. It’s a complicated story. It’s about stuff I’ve said, stuff other folks have said on tape and the hurt feelings of politicians who think they should be able to shut you up if they so desire.
In June, I supposedly was removed from my elected role as Chairman of the Republican Party in Wood County by a certified letter from the Chair of the State GOP Melody Potter.
A generally humorless scold, Potter claimed emergency powers to not only remove me from a pair of elected offices in my county but to unilaterally appoint a half-dozen folks to our County Committee. That’s new.
The emergency apparently stemmed from my free speech some months before that Chairwoman Potter had lied publicly to all Republicans about her tacit and later public support of Governor Jim Justice.
I called her a liar and said she prostituted our party and values to Jim Justice.
Because she did.
Without burning 1,200 words here to explain big chunks of Chapter 3 of W.Va. Code or how a W.Va. Code 6-6-7 removal of a public official works, I feel pretty safe just generally saying two things: that a party’s by-laws cannot supersede our W.Va. Code or the state Constitution, and that folks elected on an actual physical ballot in an election supervised by our Wood County Clerk cannot be nullified by Melody Potter ... no matter how mad she is at me.
This is now a public race by Potter, likely at the order of our governor, to take away the rights of as many elected local Republicans as she can before some real adults notice.
After cutting her swath through our Wood County GOP, the Kanawha Republican Committee is undergoing a similar remodel. The chairwoman there has removed at least a dozen members unfriendly to Potter and Justice, replacing them with randoms from the street.
It’s chilling, The threat is out there. Melody Potter will come and take away your rights if you don’t agree with her or her master Jim Justice.
Now, we’ve taken the appropriate steps to rectify these initial problems. I’ve noticed our Secretary of State of a suit to compel his office to ignore changes to the Wood County GOP Committee that Potter tried to make.
Wronged members of the Kanawha GOP have filed for arbitration with their local and state parties, and they will likely join us in court soon.
I never have seen so many people, starting with Potter, so willing to conspire to apparently take away the civil rights and voting rights of their fellow citizens.
Melody Potter and Jim Justice want to silence all of us who have bothered to defend our party and platform from their assault.
They want to crush us, like so many tanks driving over so many courageous Chinese protesting all those years ago in Tiananmen Square.
These people are exactly who you thought they were. They are willing to not only break the rules, but most likely break the law to stifle dissent.
They have to demand or compel respect, because neither Jim nor Melody can command it. They can’t earn it.
Thankfully in America, we still have the First Amendment. These people can’t take it away from us.
We will right the problems in these local committees. We will pursue doggedly those who have abridged our Constitution and tried to take away our speech.
And we will ensure that our governor and the leader of our Republican Party are again respectable and law-abiding. That day will come soon.
Laws and the elections by the people will ensure it.
Cornelius is the two-term elected chairman of the Wood County Republican Executive Committee. He can be reached at WoodCoGOP@gmail.com.