The effort to fill former state Sen. Joe Minard's seat is on hold until Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin can be sure the state Democratic Party followed its own rules for choosing potential replacements.
Minard, D-Harrison, resigned his Senate seat last week to become the Senate's clerk, a job with a higher salary.
Tomblin, a Democrat, has final say over who fills the vacancy. He received three candidates' names last week from a specially appointed Democratic executive committee. The committee included one man and one woman from each of the four counties in Minard's Senate district.
Now, criticisms of the committee's work by a Harrison County Democrat and the head of the Republican Party are complicating the effort.
The Governor's Office is waiting on the party to let it know if procedures were followed, Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin said Tuesday evening.
In the meantime, there are significant ramifications for the leadership of the House of Delegates: One of the candidates for the Senate seat is Delegate Tim Miley, the chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee.
With less a month to go before the start of the legislative session, House Speaker Rick Thompson has yet to say who will lead what committee, at least in part because of this big 'what if.'
The criticism of the process to replace Minard started from within the Democratic Party but now includes the chairman of the state Republican Party.
First, Harrison County school board President Mike Queen accused the chairman of the Senate executive committee of cheating.
Following a series of stories about Queen's allegations, Republicans joined the fray on Tuesday.
Both Queen and the Republicans say they are concerned that Senate search committee chairman Martin Shaffer manipulated the process to make sure Harrison County Commissioner Mike Romano was one of the three names sent to Tomblin. The other two were Miley and Delegate Sam Cann, D-Harrison.
Shaffer cast three votes for Romano.
"Is it really fair that one member of the Committee can cast enough votes to dictate who one of the nominees will be?" Queen said Tuesday in the most recent in a series of emails and Facebook posts questioning Shaffer's actions. "I don't think so. But the Democrat Party doesn't seem to have an opinion on that question."
Shaffer said that style of voting, known as "cumulative voting," is allowed by Robert's Rules of Order, the bible of parliamentary procedure.
He is correct.
But a recent edition of Robert's Rules added a note emphasizing that "cumulative voting violates the fundamental principle of 'one person, one vote,' " according to a list of changes to the 2011 edition on the guidebook's website.