The Upshur County Republican Executive Committee decided Monday there should only be two names for sheriff on the November ballot, as it opted to pick one of the independent candidates as its nominee.
The committee voted 8-4 to make Dave Coffman the party's nominee, replacing Mike Kelley on the ballott. Kelley, the sheriff's department's chief deputy, withdrew from the election because of a federal law violation rather than step down from his job.
Coffman will square off against independent candidate Sherman Baxa, a former Upshur County Sheriff. There was no Democratic candidate in the May primary.
Coffman had registered July 23 to run as a non-affiliated candidate for sheriff, though he is a registered Republican. He will have to withdraw his petition to run as an independent and then file paperwork to run as the Republican nomniee.
"I thought we had a sheriff after the May primary," Coffman said. "But after all the issues that came afterward, I gave it a lot of thought. I thought it was my duty to give the people of Upshur County what they deserve."
David Taylor, who finished second in the May primary to Kelley, was the other Republican under consideration. Taylor challenged the results of the primary election after an unidentified person filed a Hatch Act complaint with the federal authorities, citing that Kelley was in violation of the law which prohibits those whose salary is supplemented with federal funds or who oversees federal grant programs from seeking political office in a partisan election.
Taylor, who did not attend Monday's committee meeting because he was providing law enforcement training to Charleston area police officers, said he wished Coffman the best and that he had the utmost respect for Coffman.
"He was an individual who mentored me early in my law enforcement career," Taylor said.
Coffman echoed those thoughts, saying he does not foresee any issues between the two men as the election season progresses.
"I've known David for 35 years," Coffman said. "He's always been a friend of mine, and I respect him."
Taylor said he is still planning to appeal an Upshur County Commission decision which declared that Kelley was an eligible candidate to seek partisan political office. The commissioners, however, ruled they have no jurisdiction over the federal Hatch Act. The appeal would be heard in Upshur County Circuit Court. The court could overturn the commissioners' decision, and Taylor said that could mean his name could appear on the November ballot. That would create a scenario in which there could be two Republican nominees for the sheriff's post.
"That's a chance we have to take," Upshur County Republican Executive Committee chair Patty Adams said.
County Clerk Debbie Wilfong, the county's election officer, said she is taking a wait-and-see approach to that situation.
"Nobody knows the answer to that," she said. "It depends on what the court rules."
Coffman, a 32-year veteran of law enforcement, said he knows he has some political fences to mend at the start of his campaign.
"The party is divided a little bit," he said. "Time will heal that issue. I think we will be supporting each other 100 percent. The sheriff's department has a great foundation and great resources. I want to build on that foundation."