Kanawha court OK's Walt Helmick's run for agriculture commissio - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Kanawha court OK's Walt Helmick's run for agriculture commissioner

Posted: Updated:
West Virginia Sen. Walt Helmick -- Source: www.legis.state.wv.us/ West Virginia Sen. Walt Helmick -- Source: www.legis.state.wv.us/

A Kanawha County Circuit judge has refused a petition seeking to remove a senator from the race for Agriculture Commissioner. 

The March 1 ruling also found the statute unconstitutional, saying legislators cannot add qualifications for offices. 

The Feb. 29  hearing followed a decision by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to deny a writ filed by L. Joe Starcher, which sought to remove Sen. Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, from the race.

it is unknown whether Starcher seeks a West Virginia Supreme Court appeal. 

Starcher claimed Helmick does not meet necessary qualifications to run for the office because state law requires the agriculture commissioner to be a farmer whose chief business has been agriculture for at least 10 years.

Helmick, who owns a water bottling business in Marlinton, said bottled water is considered a non-traditional agriculture product.

"Some people are growing Christmas trees or growing mushrooms and that's considered non-traditional agricultural products," Helmick said in an interview after the hearing.

Helmick's lawyer Alex Macia, said it all comes down to a person's right to vote.

"If you can vote, you can hold state office," he said. "Restrictions on this should only be made when there is compelling state interest."

Additionally, Macia said many other positions do not require work in related fields before taking office.  

"The auditor doesn't need to have knowledge on accounting or finance," he explained.  

Starcher's lawyer, Chris Pritt, said the state's Constitution grants the authority to the Legislature to list qualifications for offices.

"There are problems if you go down that route of second guessing what the Legislature has done in this situation," he said.

Pritt called Helmick as his only witness, first asking him if he grew crops or raised cattle. Helmick answered that he did not.

"I have been involved in many aspects of agriculture," Helmick said, explaining he considers bottled water as a non-traditional agriculture product. "The U.S. Department of Agriculture has established regulations of cleanliness and other qualifications. … There are 37 different regulations."

When asked if he considered himself a farmer, Helmick said he did because he is involved in a product regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"I have promoted the building of a business that may be called as a non-traditional agriculture product, but it is a product I have developed and worked on," he said.

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WVSTATE. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.