Howell: 'I am ready to vote him out now!'
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - "I am ready to vote him out now," Speaker Pro Tempore Gary Howell, who represents Mineral County, said of Del. Derrick Evans Friday after learning Evans had been federally charged in connection with his involvement in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Evans, a Republican elected this past November to represent Wayne County, filmed himself and others taking part in the break-in at the Capitol as Vice President Pence presided over the final count of the Electoral College which confirmed the election of President-Elect Joe Biden.
Although Evans’ video was taken down minutes after being posted to Facebook, copies quickly began making their rounds around social media and caught the attention of the national media.
It also caught the attention of his fellow delegates, with several of them calling for him to resign his position.
In addition, a public petition asking for his removal from office had been signed by over 54,000 people.
Howell, whose job as speak pro tempore is to fill in when Speaker Roger Hanshaw is unavailable or unable to perform his duties, told the News Tribune Friday that he had already contacted Hanshaw to tell him he thinks Evans should be removed.
Attorney John H. Bryan, who represents Evans, said in a statement Thursday that the delegate does not plan to voluntarily resign.
In a statement to WV Metro News, Bryan said Evans was surrounded by the large group walking into the Capitol and “had no choice but to enter….
“His footage showed that members of the public were already inside the Capitol by the time he entered,” Bryan continued. “Evans’ footage shows no riotous behavior taking place at that time. Protesters can be seen calmly walking around.”
The video posted by Evans and viewed by the staff of the News Tribune, however, paints a different picture, with Evans wearing a protective helmet and gear and shouting right along with the crowd.
Several of Evans’ fellow delegates have called for his resignation.
“I am respectfully calling on Delegate Evans to resign his seat in the WV House of Delegates,” Del. Ben Queen, a Republican from Harrison County, said in a statement Thursday. “His actions do not reflect the West Virginia values that so many of us share and work so hard to defend.”
Del. Joshua Higginbotham, a Republican from Putnam County, also urged Evans to resign or be removed.
“Domestic terrorism is not acceptable. Storming the US Capitol is not acceptable. Violence against law enforcement and members of Congress is not acceptable. If West Virginia Del. Derrick Evans does not resign for his illegal and treasonous actions I and many other Republican lawmakers will vote to have him removed from the West Virginia House of Delegates,” Higginbotham said via social media.
“I swore to uphold the Constitution and it is quite evident that this elected official does not care about the oath he supposedly took.”
Speaker Hanshaw said shortly after the incident in Washington that he was appalled by the events at the Capitol and continues to “examine the specifics of what Evans did,” WV Metro News reported.
“He will need to answer to his constituents and colleagues regarding his involvement in what has occurred today," he said.
Howell told the News Tribune he has only met Evans once, at an off-site caucus, and since there were 76 at the meeting, he did not have a chance to have a conversation with the new delegate.
“Given the first opportunity to speak with him, though, I would ask for him to resign,” he said.
If Evans chooses not to resign, however, members of the House may proceed with plans to remove him.
“If he is charged and convicted, I would vote for him to be removed from office,” Howell said.
Howell said he has heard from only two of his constituents on the matter, and one called for Evans to resign and one supported Evans’ actions.
The state legislature will convene for a one-day preliminary session Jan. 13 prior to starting the 2021 session on Feb. 10.