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Gregory’s Web – November 13, 2022

Ron Gregory reviews election results.

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Ron Gregory Political Columnist - WV Statewide News

As the mainstream media scrambles to convince everyone that Republicans – and particularly former President Trump – suffered disastrous setbacks the past Tuesday, let’s consider reality.

No matter how hard they try, the media cannot stop the GOP takeover of the House of Representatives. As we look at the Senate, there’s near gridlock as well.

Regardless of the Senate outcome, GOP control of the House effectively means Democrat President Joe Biden will be hard-pressed to get any of his legislative agenda approved these next two years.

Several congressional districts reflected the power still held by Trump. And, like it or not, it remains Trump who drives the national news two years after leaving office. Incredible.

Pause a second and absorb this: Donald Trump will be the 2024 Republican presidential nominee. You can go to the bank on that one.

But we’ll have to wait a month to see who’s elected Georgia’s Senator. Which will move us that much closer to the 2024 balloting.

Even though it goes against conventional wisdom, I expect Herschel Walker to win that Peach State Senate seat from the Democrats.

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It would be difficult to think that even the most optimistic Republican strategist expected the landslide wins the GOP enjoyed in West Virginia Tuesday. If I had it to do over, I’d still check in with the 83% rate I had this time because normal wisdom just would not support the super majorities Republicans now enjoy.

Believing that too lopsided a legislative margin is bad for the citizenry, I was sure glad when Huntington lawyer and Democrat moderate Mike Woelfel retained his seat.

As we discussed earlier, Woelfel actually appeared to be the conservative in that fifth district contest.

No doubt the Cabell Senator benefits from the heavy media marketing of his law firm. But it sure didn’t hurt on a Republican night that Woelfel was the one Democrat pro-life Senator last session.

I have always found Woelfel open and honest. You can’t ask for much more from a public servant.

As I said, too much one-party rule can be disastrous as we witnessed during the 80-plus years Democrats controlled the Mountain State. Being outnumbered 30-4 places Woelfel and his fellow Democrats in an almost impossible situation with regard to effective legislation.

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The voters, who have switched in droves the past few years from Democrat to Republican, demonstrated that they accept the same changes of hearts in their legislators.

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Two former Democrat House members are moving on up to the Senate as Republicans.

Ex-delegate Mike Oliverio came from behind to win a squeaker while former Kanawha County Delegate Mark Hunt easily outdistanced incumbent Democrat Richard Lindsay.

The victory for Hunt must have been doubly sweet since he avenged a 300÷ vote loss to Lindsay in the 2018 Democrat primary. Hunt changed to Republican in the intervening years and won by about 3,500 votes Tuesday.

Election night results had Democrat Delegate Barbara Fleischauer trailing Oliverio with 49.70% of the vote to his 50.30%. Their election night tallies were separated by just 172 ballots.

That Monongalia race presented an obvious contrast between the conservative Oliverio and ultra-liberal Fleischauer.

Those who spoke with Oliverio in the days immediately following the election said he was “concerned” he might lose his fragile lead during the canvass. That’s not likely but we’ll keep an eye on it to be sure Oliverio gets the win.

Hunt simply swept Lindsay away by carrying all of the district except the portion of Kanawha County included in it. Rural counties like Clay, Jackson, and Roane went solidly for Hunt, as did the portion of Putnam included in the district.

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There’s nothing like a good winner. Former U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart sent me the message that he carried all of Boone County despite my prediction that he’d lose to Madison Democrat State Senator Ron Stollings district-wide.

This is another of those results that defies logic based on history. Not only as Stuart a Republican but he had a Charleston address as well. Six years ago either fact would have doomed his candidacy.

Pundits and pollsters believed as late as election night that Stollings would carry the coalfield counties in the district by sufficient numbers to offset losing Kanawha to Stuart.

The Madison doctor/legislator ran well enough in Kanawha to win in a normal election cycle. But, as I mentioned, not only did Stollings not defeat Stuart by big margins in Boone, Lincoln, and Logan counties, he lost all three.

It will be interesting to see how much of a “team” player Stuart will become. Some GOP operatives complained during the campaign that Stuart did not accept advice well. Apparently, he didn’t need to.

Meanwhile, Stollings wraps up his 16-year legislative career this month. The busy physician may finally have time to relax.

Maintaining a thriving medical practice while serving in the legislature made for very little “downtime” for the senator.

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One must wonder what Stuart’s election does to Stollings’ pet project – the renovation of the former Hobet Mine property along the Boone-Lincoln County border to an industrial site.

The doctor/legislator was convinced that property was the key to the diversification of employment in the district. Stuart voiced little – if any – support for the project on the campaign trail, insisting that coal is still the economic catalyst in the south’s future.

Stuart also claimed that Stollings stood to gain personally from the project since the Democrat owns acreage nearby.

It remains to be seen if Stuart will now embrace the Hobet project. Perhaps he will see that there is little else on the economic horizon for this district.

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It didn’t take State Republican Chair Elgine McArdle much time sniffing political blood in the water to pounce on Democrat U.S. Senator Joe Manchin.

In a newsletter message to the GOP faithful after the election last week, McArdle zeroed in on Manchin, whose term ends in 2024.

“The West Virginia Republican Party had a historic night on Tuesday,” McArdle began.  “There are now fewer Democrats in the state legislature than at any time since 1868! The highlights are below:

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“*In the State Senate, Republicans won 16 of 17 races on the ballot and knocked out 4 incumbent Democrats, including the Senate Minority Leader! (Stephen Baldwin of Greenbrier County – name added for clarity).

“*Similarly in the House of Delegates, Republicans set an all-time record high by securing 88 out of 100 seats in the House.”

Then McArdle issues her challenge to the senior Senator:

“The results also send a clear message to Joe Manchin: There’s no place for you in WV: Retire or we will force your retirement at the ballot box!”

Tough talk two years in advance of the election. I continue to believe Manchin is a sure bet for re-election. He is not judged like other Democrats.

Of course, if Trump is, in fact, the GOP Presidential nominee in 2024, there may not be a West Virginia Democrat left standing at the end of the day.

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Republicans were not just busy election night winning legislative seats but they were making up ground at county courthouses as well.

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The GOP took the entire ballot in Lincoln County, something unheard of in modern times.

In Logan County, a Republican win leaves only holdover Democrat Danny Godby representing his party.

The Cabell commission will turn all-GOP in January with the election of Liza Caldwell to a full term and Delegate John Mandt to the late Nancy Cartmill’s unexpired term.

Hats off to Republican County Clerk-elect Scott Caserta, who dusted himself off from an unsuccessful Huntington Mayor campaign to unseat incumbent Clerk Phyllis Smith.

My advice to Caserta is simple: concentrate on being an efficient clerk. Forget that there’s another Mayor’s race in 2024.

It would not be politically wise for Caserta to get back in the Mayor’s race as some have speculated he will.

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Caserta asked a question I nor anybody I checked with could answer. He wants to know who the last Republican County clerk in Cabell was.

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That’s surely ancient history but if anybody knows, let’s respond to the newest GOP clerk.

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With interim meetings being held this week in the Eastern Panhandle, lawmakers could a bit more discreetly handle the business of choosing their leaders away from the prying eyes of the capitol media.

It seemed by election day that House Speaker Roger Hanshaw of Clay had all but wrapped up another term leading the lower house.

Rumor had it that an announced challenge to Hanshaw from Raleigh County’s Brandon Steele would not materialize.

Instead, sources said, Hanshaw would name Steele as Majority Leader, replacing Amy Summers. That, apparently, would satisfy Steele.

On the Senate side, President Craig Blair’s position seemed secure. The success of the political action committees Blair could influence virtually assured his win. New senators simply added to Blair’s majority.

But former Education Chair Patricia Rucker, who Blair ousted and replaced with Amy Grady, was still working for votes over the weekend. 

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It is obvious there will be two distinct factions of Senate Republicans in January.

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Nothing causes internal divisions like success in politics.

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Casting some shadows on the GOP sunshine was the defeat of all four constitutional amendments put before voters. Even the one that would essentially have allowed churches to incorporate as they can in 49 other states was voted down.

Outlets such as The Charleston Gazette-Mail called the amendments “legislative power grabs.” If passed, the legislature would have had more control over local taxes and educational decisions.

Even dangling the “carrot” of eliminating the vastly unpopular motor vehicle tax was not enough to salvage Amendment 2.

While Governor Jim Justice will get some deserved credit for defeating Amendment 2, it was Kanawha Commission President Kent Carper who deserves the most praise. 

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Yes, the same Kent Carper who my friend and political genius Greg Thomas says has won his last election.

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Despite the legislative wins, Thomas and GOP legislative leadership were stinging from the amendment defeats.

Leadership made it sound like voters were ignorant as to what the amendments would have done.

I don’t think so.

It seems to me that Carper and Justice laid out the problems with Amendment 2 quite clearly and voters applied the same logic to all four.

The losses dimmed an otherwise perfect night for the GOP.

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Most legislative races went decisively for the Republicans but GOP nominee Patrick Lucas managed to defeat Democrat Ally Layman by just 185 votes in Cabell. I had picked Layman to win that one.

And one where the state would have been better off with a Republican win, Wayne County GOP Chair Jeff Maynard only lost to Democrat incumbent Ric Griffith by 63 ballots.

Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185; ronjoegregory@gmail.com; or PO Box 20297, Charleston, WV 25362. Anonymity 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.