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Editorial

Gregory’s Web – October 30, 2022

Ron Gregory’s weekly column covering many topics including Charleston Mayor’s Race and Logan County Schools

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Ron Gregory Political Columnist - WV Statewide News

My last endorsed Republican for governor has purchased the Mallory Airport in South Charleston.

Former Eastern Panhandle Delegate Mike Folk, who I endorsed in the 2020 GOP Primary for Governor, was the high bidder when the airport recently sold at auction. 

A pilot himself, Folk is paying almost $600,000 for the facility where many pilots were trained by the late Benny Mallory. A national legend, Mallory  died this year at 91.

Folk says he will continue to operate the airport as Mallory did as a tribute to the flying ace.

“My goal is to maintain the legacy of Mr. Mallory and I hope I’ll have a good team of pilots there. It really takes a whole airport community with a lot of good individuals to make a good airport, especially a small airport like that,” he explained.

Here’s hoping that Folk, who is a brilliant authority on West Virginia government, is successful with this venture.

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Even if he did once call me at 6:30 in the morning.

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The House District 30 race could be another place where Democrats can gain a seat in the supermajority Republican legislature.

There, Democrat Deidra Roberts is running an aggressive campaign while Republican David Flimsy Adkins has been relatively quiet. 

This is another of those districts with clear ideological lines. Roberts is liberal while Adkins, the Hamlin Mayor, is conservative.

Roberts touts her heritage as a coal miner’s daughter and is endorsed by the United Mine Workers. She is also endorsed by both statewide teachers’ unions as well as the progressive Mountain Momma PAC.

A win by Roberts might reduce the GOP margin in the new House next January to 76-24.

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The takeover of the Logan public school system by the State Board of Education apparently confirms rumors that had been circulating for some time.

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While a litany of missteps by the local board was noted when the takeover was announced, much of the turmoil could simply be called the result of a power struggle between the superintendent and the assistant superintendent.

It is clear that many of the alleged errors by the county board members came when the assistant superintendent (Darlene Dingess-Adkins) worked with board members and staff to circumvent Superintendent Patricia Lucas’ authority.

That the state board felt Lucas was in the right and Dingess-Adkins was wrong is illustrated by their resolution of the struggle. 

In announcing the takeover, the state said Dingess-Adkins had been allowed to retire. Lucas is to remain with the system as assistant superintendent. Veteran Jeff Huffman, a former Boone County Schools superintendent, is the new Logan superintendent.

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Long time school observers said this is likely the first time the state took over a county system and kept the sitting superintendent in ANY capacity. 

While bringing in a state-approved superintendent (Huffman) was likely required, making Lucas the new assistant is quite a compliment indeed. I have always found her to be forthright and competent.

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Although embarrassed by the Logan mismanagement, another hero emerged from this takeover.

I have found super lobbyist and now State Board of Education President Paul Hardesty to be among the most honest and dedicated public servants around.

Hardesty has been a member of the Logan board himself. He campaigned on a platform of cleaning up the system. He was successful both times.

I spoke with Hardesty and he confirmed this statement: 

“First off, I’m embarrassed on many fronts. I was born in Logan, raised in Logan, live in Logan. Logan is my home. But it’s not about me today. It’s not about me at all. It’s about the 5,000-plus children and almost 800 employees who comprise Logan County schools. My next comment is directly related to those children and our employees. I am truly sorry that this school system is in this situation again. Change starts today.”– Paul hardesty

While I have never been a fan of state takeovers of local school systems, it appears this one was warranted. I have confidence Hardesty and State Superintendent David Roach, another man of integrity, will get this mess straightened out.

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I pointed out last week that Republican Lance Wolfe has made the Charleston mayor’s race against incumbent Democrat Amy Shuler Goodwin much closer than I would have ever expected.

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Now, Charleston attorney J.B. Akers has entered the battle and what he says cannot be good news for the mayor. 

Akers was the 2018 Republican Mayoral nominee who lost to Goodwin.

In a lengthy social media post Akers condemns the “Charleston Can’t Wait” organization and, although he says he is not criticizing the mayor, links her to what he calls the radical left wing organization. 

Titled, “The radicalization of Charleston,” Akers says the Charleston Can’t Wait” group is “damaging our city.”

Akers notes. “If you think this is going to be an attack on our current Mayor, you’re wrong.  This post certainly involves her.  However, the focus is on a radical (I don’t casually throw that word around) political organization named ‘Charleston Can’t Wait.”‘  

“That group is disingenuously attacking anyone, Democrat or Republican alike, who does not support its ideological platform.  Charleston Can’t Wait is a spin off of a statewide organization named ‘West Virginia Can’t Wait.’”– JB Akers

 Analyzing the current state of city politics, Akers maintains, “We have now reached a point that some of the most liberal Democrats in city government are facing attacks from a far left group that thinks being liberal isn’t enough.” 

Akers goes on to contrast the national and local moods between 2018 and 2022, concluding that Charleston was and is a Democrat city. He says Democrat registration in the city, which stood at 50% compared to 23% Republican in 2018, has merely slipped to 48-23% this year.

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“Charleston Can’t Wait”sees this as an opportunity, he adds. He further notes that, 

“for the first time that anyone can recall, not one Republican won an at-large City Council seat.  State Senate and House races with Charleston precincts were significantly impacted.  Outside of city limits the vote results were largely red.  In Charleston, the map was largely blue.”  

He points out that prior to 2018, city elections were held in off years. Now they coincide with congressional midterms.

“Donald Trump was hugely unpopular in Charleston, and 2018 was a referendum on him even though he wasn’t on the ballot.  Other issues like a constitutional abortion amendment were up for a vote.  It passed statewide but was likewise very unpopular in Charleston.  City Democrats rallied around multiple issues,” Akers maintains.

He goes on, “prior to 2018 the Charleston municipal election was almost singularly about one thing – Charleston.  Our city had elected a string of moderate Democrat and Republican mayors along with moderate city councils.  Our prior Mayor (Danny Jones) was fairly described as a moderate to even liberal Republican who switched his affiliation to independent while he was still in office.  

“That all changed in 2018 when our city’s election was moved to coincide with statewide and federal races. The municipal election was no longer just about Charleston, it was also about whatever was happening at the State Capitol and in Washington, D.C.”

Akers says WVCW staffers and volunteers made phone calls.  They knocked on doors.  They engaged in a get out the vote campaign.  They posted … on social media.  I can tell you that local Republicans have very little to frankly almost no grassroots presence.  No one else on the local level had an activist presence like WV Can’t Wait in 2018.

He continues, “WV Can’t Wait helped the current Mayor dominate her primary, in which she ran against a moderate, established City Council member.  In our 2018 general election many of the people pictured in her door knocking campaigns were WV Can’t Wait volunteers, not necessarily volunteers for the current Mayor.  

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After the 2018 election, Akers says Smith claimed his group got Goodwin elected. 

He adds, “A spin-off group named Charleston Can’t Wait now exists here.  You can look the group up online, where its platform is posted.  While some people may support that platform, no reasonable person would classify it as “mainstream” or even liberal.  It is a leftist platform.”

Akers says CWC’s platform includes cutting the police budget in half and legalizing drug use sites (they call them “safe use sites”). 

“These are places where substance abusers may legally shoot up with hard drugs like heroin and meth while under supervision.  They then leave, going back into the public while under the influence.” Akers declares.

He insists, “there are otherwise decent Democrat officeholders in Charleston who accepted WV Can’t Wait’s brand of advocacy in 2018.  Now many of those same Democrats are in Charleston’s Can’t Wait’s crosshairs, and the same politics of personal destruction are being used against them.   

“Charleston Can’t Wait required its endorsed candidates to sign a pledge to support its platform.  This is the same platform you can find online that calls for defunding the police and legalizing drug use sites.

He also charges that Smith “essentially refuses to discuss his past when he’s interviewed.  It’s no secret, however, that he was a trained activist before he moved to WV from Chicago.  Charleston Can’t Wait members also include trained activists from other states.   

Akers argues, “Charleston Can’t Wait isn’t debating policy with the candidates it is attacking, it is attempting to delegitimize them.  Unfortunately this tactic is enough to make some people align with an activist group, to avoid the politics of personal destruction.  That is one of the goals – agree with us or we’ll attack you on a personal level.

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“To the Democrats in Charleston city races who are now being attacked, and frankly lied about, by Charleston Can’t Wait – I know some of you and you are good people.  I wish you would have spoken out against WV Can’t Wait in 2018, before it took root and morphed into Charleston Can’t Wait at the local level.  I’m glad some of you are now speaking out, and I hope you continue to do so even after the election.”

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It remains to be seen how effective Akers is in his argument but I quoted him extensively because I think he has a right to be heard.

I will add the disclaimer that I consider the mayor and all the Goodwins to be decent and honorable people. Amy Goodwin is a good person.

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Some think Republican Governor Jim Justice didn’t realize the proposed Amendment Two was sailing through the legislature. 

Regardless, he and BabyDog have conducted a tireless campaign to beat it on November 8.

The most effective ally Justice has in this is Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper.

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Unlike Justice spouting silly statements. Carper points out that items such as first responders could suffer 25 percent budget cuts if the amendment passes. Six such organizations appeared at last week’s commission meeting to support Carper.

If it fails, Justice can thank Carper. 

Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185; ronjoegregory@gmail.com; or PO Box 20297, Charleston, WV. Anonymity is guaranteed.

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  • Ron Gregory

    From Mayor of Glenville at age 26 to Assistant Mayor of Charleston, management of various public entities, and countless political races in West Virginia – Ron Gregory is the most noted political correspondent in the state.

From Mayor of Glenville at age 26 to Assistant Mayor of Charleston, management of various public entities, and countless political races in West Virginia - Ron Gregory is the most noted political correspondent in the state.