Del. Mandt To Resign From W.Va. House And Terminate Re-Election Campaign After Offensive Remarks
A West Virginia lawmaker is resigning after reports of homophobic remarks made in a private Facebook group chat.
The controversial comments made by Del. John Mandt Jr., R-Cabell, spread across social media over the weekend through images from a group known as “The ‘Right’ Stuff,” of which Mandt is a member.
Screen shots showed Mandt saying offensive things about other public officials, including several delegates and the mayor of Huntington.
Members in the group also made offensive comments directed toward the executive director of the national Council on American-Islamic Relations, a non-profit that advocates for civil rights for the Muslim-American community.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw announced the resignation of Mandt — who represents the Huntington area in the 16th House District — late Saturday night.
Hanshaw said in one statement that Mandt’s resignation was related to the death of Mandt’s mother and his work “expanding business ventures” — likely at Stewart’s Hot Dogs, which Mandt owns.
In a separate statement, Hanshaw said he condemned the comments.
“I don’t care who said it – it’s wrong and I want everyone to know there is no place for hatred or bigotry in our state, our political discourse or the West Virginia House of Delegates,” Hanshaw said.
Mandt told the Huntington Herald-Dispatch Saturday that the comments weren’t real and he was hacked. Another Republican running for Huntington City Council, Jeffrey Ward, confirmed the authenticity of the messages to the paper. The Herald-Dispatch also reports candidate Derrick Evans, another Republican running for the state House in the 19th District, also appeared to be in the group chat.
According to a statement from Hanshaw, Mandt will resign by midnight Saturday, although his letter might not come through until after the weekend. Mandt said he is also terminating his re-election campaign.
“While I have enjoyed my time in public service and thank the people of the 16th District for the opportunity to represent them in the House,” Mandt said in a statement released by the House communications director. “Right now, my focus and priority needs to be on my family and business, and feel it is best at this time to terminate my campaign and make room for other individuals to serve the state.”
Mandt’s phone number was not available on the legislative website and his Twitter account was no longer active Saturday night. There have been no updates since Sept. 27 on a Facebook page where Mandt has been posting about his campaign.
According to state code, the governor is responsible for appointing a new delegate to take Mandt’s seat until Dec. 1, when the winner of the general election is scheduled to be sworn in to serve a two-year term in the House.
Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.