- Associated Press - Monday, July 21, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Facing their toughest election season in decades in the state House, West Virginia Democrats are fighting the inclusion of two GOP state legislative candidates on the November ballot.

The party says state GOP Del. Suzette Raines doesn’t live where she claims, and that Republican candidate Melissa Lewis switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party five days before filing. State law only allows party switches more than 60 days before filing.

The state Democratic Executive Committee filed complaints against the two candidates Monday in Kanawha and Preston county circuit courts. The petitions also name both county clerks and boards of ballot commissioners.

Raines and Lewis did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Democrats say Raines doesn’t live at the St. Albans address listed on candidacy papers. In a news release Monday, the state Democratic Party said that Raines moved to Charleston in July 2013, “according to sources.” That address is still in her district.

Their complaint also claims that Raines hasn’t filed several campaign finance reports or a financial disclosure report, and didn’t sign previous disclosures.

In Lewis’ case, Democrats complain that the candidate lived in Monongalia County within a year of November’s election, making her ineligible because her residence was outside of Preston County-based District 52. Lewis is challenging Democratic incumbent Del. Larry Williams.

State Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas said he hadn’t reviewed specifics of the lawsuits Monday, but said Democrats were employing election-year distractions and attacks.

“It shouldn’t fall on deaf ears to West Virginia that the Democrat Party has chosen to file a frivolous lawsuit to achieve a frivolous goal,” Lucas said.

Raines is seeking a second term in House District 35. Four delegates - three Republicans and one Democrat - currently serve in the Kanawha County district. Democratic Del. Doug Skaff is leaving his seat to run for state Senate.

The legal action comes as House Democrats scramble to defend a six-seat advantage over Republicans. Democrats have kept control of the House for 85 years.

All 100 House seats are up for grabs in November.

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