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W.Va. GOP lawmaker who was ensnared in controversy resigns

June 9, 2022 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia state lawmaker who was ensnared in controversy a year ago has resigned to take a job in Florida.

Del. Joe Jeffries, a Republican whose district includes a group of counties near Charleston, submitted his formal letter of resignation to House Speaker Roger Hanshaw on June 1, according to a House spokesperson.

In the letter, Jeffries said he’s leaving his position because he wasn’t able to find a job in West Virginia that would accommodate his work schedule as a lawmaker. He said it was “one of the hardest decisions I had to make.”

“Best wishes and may God direct each of you to do what is right for the people of this state,” he wrote to lawmakers in his letter. Jeffries, who lives in Putnam County, did not specify what his new job will be but said the position is based in Bradenton, Florida.

Jeffries was stripped of his committee assignment and called an “embarrassment” by Hanshaw last year after he posted a lewd video on the social media platform TikTok. In the video, he offers sexual advice to women. The video was posted directly after a legislative session where Jeffries sponsored legislation forbidding “the teaching of sexuality in public schools.”

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“I believe Joe Jeffries is an embarrassment not just to the House of Delegates, but to the entire state,” Hanshaw said after he stripped Jeffries of his vice chairman position on a committee in July 2021. “He has shown us more than once that he does not respect the office he was elected to serve.”

The Putnam County GOP Executive Committee issued a statement that “very strongly condemns the content of the video published by Delegate Jeffries.”

“While all American citizens are entitled to their right to freedom of speech, the Putnam County Executive Committee expects our public representatives to conduct themselves with professionalism on all public forums,” the committee stated.

Belinda Biafore, chair of the West Virginia Democratic Party, said Jeffries “has a slew of inappropriate and vulgar videos with his own sexually explicit commentary on a social media app aimed at youth.”

Jeffries, who was elected to the House in 2018, had already decided not to run for reelection. Lawmakers left the Capitol after the 2022 session’s end in March but return for interim meetings and are sometimes called back by the governor for special sessions outside the normal schedule.

West Virginia law states that Republican Gov. Jim Justice must appoint someone from Jeffries’ district to fill his spot in the Legislature for the remainder of his term. The Putnam County Republican Party Executive Committee can submit a list of three recommendations for the position.