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Editorial

Gregory’s Web – November 27, 2022

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Ron Gregory Political Columnist - WV Statewide News

Difficult as it may seem in the Age of Joe Biden, there are things to be thankful for during this time of year.

We can be grateful, for instance, that the four constitutional amendments have been voted on and there’s no longer a need for Governor Jim Justice and BabyDog to constantly travel the state. Want to bet how long it takes him to find another “cause”?

Let’s face it. We have a governor who, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to spend any time in Charleston. It’s almost laughable to hear Justice refer to the Governor’s Mansion as “home” as if he actually lives there as the law requires.

On top of the constitutional requirement, Justice agreed in court to begin residing in the mansion at the start of his new term (January 2021). He makes virtually no pretense of honoring that.

While the newly-enlarged Republican supermajority in the legislature pretends to stand up to Justice in the new year, filing follow-up court action to make him abide by his promise to live in Charleston might be a good start.

Perhaps those of us who actually reside in Charleston should be thankful Justice doesn’t choose to live here.

If he did, he’d probably demand to be coaching the Capital High girls and boys basketball teams.

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Or maybe GW.

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I have absolutely nothing against Delegate-elect Bob Fehrenbacher of Wood County. I don’t know if I’ve ever met him. But he should not be seated in the upcoming legislative session no matter what the voters decided.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about Fehrenbacher. After all, he won the Republican primary over incumbent Roger Conley.

I DO have something against Conley. He was part of the cabal that removed the elected Wood County GOP Chair Rob Cornelius when former State Chair Melody Potter tightened her grip on the party.

Conley was Potter’s selection as Cornelius’ replacement as chair.

So Fehrenbacher ran against Conley and won the primary. Hoorah! Well, sort of.

It became well publicized during the campaign that Fehrenbacher had sworn to a false statement when he filed. It was conclusive that Fehrenbacher swore he was a registered Republican when he was not. He did join the GOP later. He admits all that.

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Asked about the situation prior to the primary, Conley said he would challenge the result if Fehrenbacher won. The lone Democrat in the race, attorney Harry Deitzler, said he would not question the outcome if voters chose Fehrenbacher.

In May. Despite additional warnings from the state committee and Wood committee to Republicans,  Fehrenbacher beat Conley.

Then, in the general election, Fehrenbacher defeated Deitzler.

Somewhere someone should defend the law. Fehrenbacher swore he was a Republican when he wasn’t because he HAD to be a registered Republican at that time to run in the GOP primary. He was not a legitimate candidate then and he is not a legitimate delegate-elect now.

The House leadership should take note that one of their delegate-elect swore under oath that he was a Republican when he wasn’t. He told media outlets he THOUGHT he was registered Republican when he was, in fact, registered with no party preference.

In the 2022 primary, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom ordered a candidate removed from the ballot because she did not meet residency requirements to run for the state senate.

If voters in her district had taken the attitude of Wood County residents, Andrea Garrett Kiessling would have remained on the ballot even if she was a resident of North Carolina and could not have been a West Virginian for five years, as the law requires.

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Some will argue that the will of the voters should prevail. That still does not address the fact that this delegate-elect swore to a falsehood in order to run. He did not register as a Republican until March. Filing ended in January. I p

GOP state Executive Director John Findlay, while urging voters to reject Fehrenbacher in the primary, said state law only allows 15 days from the time a candidate files for that filing to be challenged.

But in the Kiessling case, it was not determined to remove her until just days before the election. In fact, early voting had already begun.

“Had he been challenged within 15 days of the filing deadline, he in all likelihood would have been kicked off the ballot…because the sworn filing statement was inaccurate. That’s basically the crux of the chairman’s statement,” Findlay told the media at the time.

So, there you have it. A man who doesn’t know which party he’s registered with is headed to the capitol to make laws the rest of us are expected to obey.

Legislative leadership should act as a court of last resort and refuse to seat Fehrenbacher. Ignorance and/or false swearing should not be rewarded. 

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Anne Dandelet stepped down as chair of the Cabell County Republican Executive Committee toward the end of their meeting last week.

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Dandelet had recently replaced longtime Chair T-Anne See.

Meanwhile, and totally unrelated, Republican Senator Patricia Rucker has withdrawn as a candidate for Senate President and Lieutenant Governor. That indicates current President Craig Blair has the votes for another term.

Ah politics.

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Applications are being taken to fill another Huntington vacancy. Ninth District City Council member Dale Anderson resigned his seat. A replacement will be chosen to complete his term.

Applications will be accepted in the City Clerk’s office until Tuesday, December 6. The successful applicant must live in the ward.

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One applicant already filed and would make an excellent replacement.

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Ally Layman nearly won a House of Delegates seat in the election earlier this month, losing to Patrick Lucas by 180 votes.

Layman is deeply involved in the community, helping out with various causes.

It would be a win for Huntington if Layman is appointed. The selection by city council will be made soon.

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While I have written in this space that I will keep my comments about guns relatively rare, sometimes silence is too much of a burden to bear.

My reasons for anti-gun silence include my knowledge that almost no reader of this column agrees with me. No need to go out of the way to be offensive (it just comes natural for me, anyway). 

Additionally – and likely more important – is that I will change virtually no public official minds. An A+ National Rifle Association rating is a key to many political victories.

So I don’t write what I’m about to with the hope of changing any minds. I know grandpa had a gun; his sons had guns; the grandchildren have guns; and so will the great-grandchildren.

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Is it fair for me to say there are those who must make sure the three-year-old has access to a gun, presenting the chance that he or she might “accidentally” shoot his or her two-year-old sibling?  Probably not.

Anyway as I write, there’s been another mass shooting in America. It’s the second in four days.

On November 19, five people were killed and 17 wounded at a Colorado Springs, Colorado LGBTQ nightclub shooting. On Tuesday night, seven people were killed, including the gunman, at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia.

The shootings brought a public response from Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Mark Brennan. His statements and writing, in turn caused a verbal attack on Brennan from one of his parishioners who just happens to be a Republican state legislator.

Brennan called for more action to curb gun violence, as one might expect a man of peace to do.

Appearing on MetroNews “Talkline,” Brennan urged citizens to think about what is happening with guns and what changes should be made.

“We have to wake up and say are we going to accept responsibility for changing the culture, the way we live together in this country so we can diminish all of these massacres of people,” Brennan said.

“Look at the lives of the people that have been lost, look at the grieving families. Sympathize with them. But do more than offer pious words. Prayers are always good and on the other hand, actions also have to follow.”

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Those apparently inflammatory words didn’t sit well with Delegate Pat McGeehan, the Hancock County Republican. 

Keeping things on an adult level, McGeehan told MetroNews a letter on the subject written by Brennan looks like it was “written for children” with “simpleton language.”

That’s keeping the debate on the high road, delegate. 

At least going to a bit higher level criticism (can one get much higher than criticizing God’s Bishop? Just asking) McGheehan added, “His letter is radical, left-wing political ldeology, sprinkled with 

religious language.”

One would expect the delegate to recognize radical ideology if he saw it.

Then the Republican twists his bishop’s words.

He took Brennan’s comment that “pious words are not enough” to insist the bishop no longer believes in the value of prayer.

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I’d say “for heaven’s sake, delegate” but references to anything religious seem inappropriate.

Brennan was clearly making reference to the gun lobby Republicans who insist all that’s needed when people are gunned down like cattle is “our thoughts and prayers.” Neither of which have stopped mass murders.

Brennan called for the totally radical idea of criminal and mental health background checks for gun ownership.

On radio, he suggested having gun stores. He said when someone wanted to go hunting, a person could have a key and go pick it up. He said that the NRA could build and staff those buildings.

Ah the bishop is obviously giving the folks who swear they want guns “only for hunting” far too much credit.

“We say we don’t have to exaggerate our right to possess a gun, we have to be in favor of the common good, protecting one another and diminishing the availability of guns so these massacres don’t occur,” Brennan said.

McGeehan was duly shocked by the idea of a gun center. “Not even the most left-wing, progressive states have laws that establish a centralized depository for gun confiscation for the state,” McGheehan said.

Who mentioned gun confiscation? If the guns are “just for hunting” why would the owner object to the state storing them until hunting season?

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The bishop finished his statement,, “the Lord Jesus, who died a violent death for our sake. He will ask us: did you love your neighbor as yourself? Did you do to others what you would have them do to you? Did you care more for the safety and welfare of your brothers and sisters than for an individual right enshrined in a political constitution? What answer will we give to him? I urge you to think and pray about this matter. May the Lord of life bless you and your family.”

As I said, I don’t expect to change a mind as a result of anything Bishop Brennan or I might say. The “right” to own a gun by every living American, his or her kids, grandkids, aunts and uncles is ingrained in our society. I get it.

But Delegate McGheehan is off base in attacking the bishop.

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An eagle-eyed reader asked why I wrote that there might be three Democrats in the state senate in 2023. It’s because the rumor has been prevalent for weeks that Putnam Senator Glenn Jeffries will switch to Republican before the January session begins. Without that potential change, election night indicated there would be four Democrats.

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

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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.

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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.