The race to become Upshur County's next sheriff took a new twist as two independent candidates - including a former sheriff - filed to run in the November election.
Sherman Baxa, who served as sheriff from 2001-2004, submitted a petition to run as an independent candidate. Though he is a registered Democrat, he was not required to change his political affiliation to seek office.
Dave Coffman, a 32-year veteran in law enforcement who has served with the state Department of Natural Resources, the Lewis County Sheriff's Department and the Buckhannon Police Department, also filed a petition to seek the office of sheriff. Coffman is a registered Republican, and he also was not forced to switch parties to seek the office.
West Virginia recognizes the Independent Party as an official party, similar to the Democratic and Republican parties. Coffman and Baxa are running as independent, or non-affiliated, candidates. Because of their filing prior to the Aug. 1 deadline, their names will appear on the November ballot, meaning voters will not be required to write in their choice.
Just who they will be challenging remains unsettled as Upshur County commissioners have not ruled on a petition filed by Republican David Taylor, who lost in the May primary by a 2-1 margin to Chief Deputy Mike Kelley. But a petition filed by Taylor arguing that Kelley was ineligible to seek partisan office because it violated the Hatch Act prompted Kelley to withdraw from the election. Kelley said he would rather keep his position with the Upshur County Sheriff's Department, along with the insurance and retirement benefits, rather than be forced to resign as was required by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of federal employees, along with state and local employees whose salary is supplemented by federal funds or who oversees workers in federally funded programs. Those people are prohibited from seeking political office in a partisan election unless they resign prior to filing their candidacy papers.
Taylor filed a petition with the county clerk to contest the results of the May primary almost immediately after the commissioners certified the election.
He is arguing that he should be the Republican nominee for sheriff, now that Kelley has dropped out of the election. Kelley cannot seek to run as a write-in candidate, nor could he accept the position should he be elected in that manner.
There was no Democratic challenger for the sheriff's office.
Those seeking to run as an independent candidate have until Aug. 1 to submit a petition to the county clerk's office. That petition must contain at least 77 signatures, which amounts to 1 percent of the voter turnout in the previous sheriff's election in 2008.