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W.Va. GOP leader Melody Potter resigns, citing family health issues

CHARLESTON — Melody Potter, the first woman to lead the West Virginia Republican Party into legislative supermajorities, the re-election of the Democrat-turned-Republican governor, and an all-Republican Board of Public Works, resigned Monday evening.

“I am resigning my position as Chairwoman of the West Virginia Republican Party, effective immediately,” Potter wrote in a letter to members of the West Virginia Republican Executive Committee on Monday evening. “I am sorry that I have not been able to notify you before now.”

Potter cited the health of her parents as the reason for stepping down from party leadership.

“Now, the time has come, that I must focus my attention on my family,” Potter wrote. “Both of my parents had strokes last year within six months of each other and they require care 24/7. Our family is working together to care for them.”

Roman Stauffer, the co-chairman of the Republican Executive Committee, will serve as acting chairman until a new chair is elected at a later date. The campaign manager for Gov. Jim Justice in 2020, Stauffer thanked Potter for her service on Twitter.

“I thank Melody Potter for her years of service to the WVGOP,” Stauffer said. “Please keep her in your prayers as she cares for her elderly parents.”

Potter’s resignation comes nearly two years after she was first elected to the top position in the party. Potter replaced Conrad Lucas after a vote by the Republican Executive Committee on Jan. 6, 2018. Lucas resigned to run in the Republican primary for the 3rd congressional district.

The co-owner of Tri-State Coal Sale with her husband Rob, Potter was previously the Republican National Committeewoman from 2012 to 2018. Before that, Potter chaired the Kanawha County Republican Executive Committee and was a vice-chair of the state Republican Executive Committee.

Potter chaired the party as it grew in voter registration to nearly surpassing the West Virginia Democratic Party registration numbers. Republicans now have 461,485 registered voters compared to 467,438 registered Democratic voters — a difference of 0.47 percent.

During Potter’s tenure, Republicans gained 23 seats in the West Virginia Senate and 76 seats in the House of Delegates after Berkeley County Del. Jason Barrett switched registration from Democrat to Republican. Every seat on the Board of Public Works is now in Republican hands after former Jefferson County delegate Riley Moore defeated six-term State Auditor John Perdue in November.

And Justice, who won election as Governor in 2016 as a Democrat and switched to Republican in 2017 at the urging of President Donald Trump, won re-election last year as the first elected Republican since Cecil Underwood in 1996. Potter was a frequent critic of Justice even after his party switch, but she changed her tune when Justice announced a deal with the State Tax Department to settle some of his companies’ tax debts. Justice also donated to the state Republican Party.

Potter’s decisions were sometimes controversial, including using the party’s email system to announce Justice’s primary re-election event at the Greenbrier Resort, calling Democrats “godless,” removing Wood County Republican Party chairman Rob Cornelius as a member of the county party’s executive committee, and statements where she refused to wear a face mask after Justice’s executive order requiring mask-wearing indoors.

Behind-the-scenes, Potter was criticized for a weak response to the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol Building last week that saw hundreds force their way into the building, breaking doors and windows, committing acts of vandalism, and some looking to detain members of Congress who were counting the Electoral College votes from the states. One of the people who broke inside the Capitol Building was Derrick Evans a former member of the House of Delegates who resigned Saturday after he was charged by federal authorities.

Despite delaying the certification process, Congress declared former vice president Joe Biden President-elect. Potter said in a statement last Wednesday evening that the mob attack on the Capitol took away from Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud.

“While the right to peacefully protest is sacred and a cornerstone of our Republic, there is no room for violence,” Potter said. “The West Virginia Republican Party stands unequivocally with President Donald J. Trump and his efforts to pursue election integrity. The senseless acts of violence displayed at the Capitol today distracts from the major issue of election integrity.”

Looking back on the last two years, Potter said she was proud of the work she was part of in securing a solid Republican majority in West Virginia.

“My parents always say that, ‘it is better to leave something in better shape than when you found it,'” Potter said at the end of her resignation letter. “I’ve tried to do just that.”

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