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Wilson collecting signatures to run for governor of West Virginia

IN THE RACE? — Delegate S. Marshall Wilson, I-Berkeley, speaks during the last day of the 2020 legislative session in March. Wilson is collecting signatures so he can be placed on the November general election ballot as an independent candidate for governor. -- Photo Courtesy/WV Legislative Photography

CHARLESTON — A Berkeley County lawmaker who switched from Republican to independent last year is collecting signatures to get on the November general election ballot to run for governor of West Virginia.

Delegate S. Marshall Wilson announced his campaign last Friday in a video on his new Facebook page.

The motivation for Wilson to run came from the results of the Republican primary for governor on June 9. Gov. Jim Justice, who won his first term for governor as a Democrat in 2016 and switched to Republican in 2017, won re-election as the Republican nominee.

“The reason I’m running for governor of West Virginia is because we were terribly disappointed in the outcome of the recent primary,” Wilson said.

According to unofficial results provided from the Secretary of State’s Office, Justice won with 132,807 votes, leading former Commerce Department secretary Woody Thrasher by 44.4 percent of the vote. Thrasher, who received 38,748 votes, was followed by Mike Folk, a former Berkeley County delegate, with 26,651 votes.

Wilson has represented a portion of Berkeley County since 2016, serving two terms in the House. He switched from Republican to independent on Dec. 17 after butting heads with the West Virginia Republican Executive Committee and Melody Potter, state GOP chairwoman, whom he asked to resign last year. Wilson cited the state party’s interference with county executive committees as part of his reasons for leaving the party.

Wilson has butted heads with leaders of the Republican party before. In 2018, Wilson made a motion on the first day of the legislative session calling for former Kanawha County delegate Tim Armstead to be removed as House Speaker. The motion failed and Wilson was removed from committee assignments.

A court case brought by Wilson and four Republican lawmakers against Justice also is pending. Wilson, joined by outgoing delegates Tom Bibby, R-Berkeley, and Jim Butler, R-Mason, Delegate Tony Paynter, R-Wyoming, and state Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, are asking the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to order Justice to call a special session.

Wilson and the lawmakers question whether Justice has the power under a state of emergency to make unilateral decisions, such as shutdowns of businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, without the approval of the Legislature. Despite several decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court that empowers state governments to exercise broad powers during public health crises, Wilson said he believes Justice has violated the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.

“We believe that West Virginia deserves a governor who loves the Constitution, who loves your natural rights and your liberties that are enshrined in it and will fight for them and lay his life down to protect your natural rights and liberties,” Wilson said. “I believe that I am that guy.”

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, independent and unaffiliated candidates who want to be on the Nov. 3 ballot for the general election must collect signatures equaling 1 percent of the total number of voters who cast ballots in the previous election for the office being sought. For Wilson, that means collecting 7,200 signatures by Aug. 1 to be on the ballot with Justice and Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango, the Democratic nominee.

Wilson, a former U.S. Army officer and preacher, encouraged his supporters to collect as many signatures as possible.

“The power lies with you, the people,” Wilson said in a video to supporters Sunday. “This is not some sort of resume enhancer for me. I get nothing out of this except for the opportunity to serve, and that is everything for me.”

A request for comment from Wilson to his Facebook was not returned.

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