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Editorial

Gregory’s Web – December 18, 2022

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Ron Gregory Political Columnist - WV Statewide News

I know Betty Ireland. Betty Ireland has been a friend of mine for 30 years. I would never disparage the public service or personal courage of Betty Ireland.

For once, my role in inciting a war of words was innocent and unintended. Really.

For whatever else could be said about Betty Ireland, she was –and is – a model for strong leadership.

It’s generally accepted that some are born to be leaders while others are destined to be followers.

Betty Ireland is the former; never the latter.

A female pioneer, she was the first woman elected to a statewide West Virginia executive office as Secretary of State in 2004.

When she was Secretary, I’ll guarantee you everyone knew who the keeper of the Great Seal was. Nobody puzzled over who was in charge in the SOS office. 

It was a distinct step forward for Republicans in 2004 when Ireland “upset” Democrat legend Ken Hechler to become SOS.

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Winning 52 to 48 percent, Ireland denied Hechler a return to the office he had previously held for 16 years.

After giving up a run for a second term due to family obligations in 2008, Ireland ran instead in 2011’s special gubernatorial election.

She lost that primary, finishing second to Bill Maloney. In the fall, Maloney lost to Democrat Lieutenant Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. Ireland was effectively done with elected politics.

Except for an occasional social media comment, Ireland has been pretty silent publicly.

There was never a time when Ireland was a flower on the wall, though. She was powerful; with a “take charge” personality. 

I worked as a paid consultant for her, so there’s my disclaimer. I am not now – nor will I likely ever be – a critic of Ireland.

To be honest, I wrote the story about plans to “honor” Ireland at a Republican victory celebration without once recalling that she came to denounce the GOP publicly on social media.

I don’t know if remembering her negative Republican comments would have caused me to think honoring Ireland was a bad idea. It truly did not enter my mind. But it certainly has never exited the minds of some readers who are appalled at the prospects.

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That’s a bit strange. After all, she was a Republican when she became the first female to win a statewide executive branch position. She has identified with the GOP for most of her career.

And while Ireland essentially said on social media that Republicans are no better than Democrats, she switched her registration to unaffiliated not Democrat. Changing to Dem might have complicated my thinking.

Regardless of my thoughts, dozens of readers were incensed. They didn’t think Republicans should honor her at a $75-a-plate reception and dinner. They let me know that I should not be “promoting” Ireland’s role in the GOP.

At that point, at least, I had offered no opinion as to the tribute to Ireland. Come to think of it, I still haven’t. 

I doubt that any deep thought went into the decision to honor Ireland. No more than went into my first story about the event. 

Ireland was Republican when being Republican wasn’t cool. Someone probably said, “let’s honor her!” Nobody disagreed and the die was cast. Much more planning could have gone into it, but I doubt it.

I did ask State GOP Chair Elgine McArdle if she knew Ireland had denounced the GOP when she was selected as an honoree.

McArdle gave a perfectly reasonable answer.

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“Regarding Betty Ireland, It’s easier to belong when it’s popular and harder to take a stand when it is not popular. True leadership is shown when you stand up for what you believe in. Betty Ireland certainly did that for the Republican Party,” McCardle wrote.

Many will fully agree with the Chair. Some will strongly disagree. Several will dispute that Ireland’s criticism was constructively offered to help the party.

I’ve said it here before but success is one of the direct routes to disagreements. Republicans have unprecedented West Virginia power. They’re not always sure what to do with it.

I still haven’t said what I think about the tribute but I wish Ireland well and hope the event is a success. She deserves it.

* * * * * *

The GOP celebration kicks off at 6 p.m., January 10, 2023 at the Charleston Civic Center. Dinner is at 7 p.m.

That’s the same day, coincidentally, when Secretary of State Mac Warner will hold his announcement to announce he’s going to announce for Governor sometime before announcing in 2024.

* * * * * *

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At 4:30 p.m., January 10, Warner is set to talk about his plans for 2024. He will be finishing up his second SOS term then and is likely to run for governor.

His announcement will come near the WV Veteran’s Memorial Statue on the capitol grounds.

A reception will immediately follow.

Warner is a native West Virginian and a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel. 

“He has cleaned up the voting rolls of our state to the point of six straight elections with no major complaints from either party,” said a campaign spokesman. “West Virginia is now recognized as being a leader in how to run an election. He and his staff have developed and instituted a very successful electronic voting system for service members and citizens living out of state or country. He has spoken before the US Congress and multiple other state governments.”

He concluded, “Please feel free to bring family and friends.”

Or enemies if they’re inclined to vote for Warner.

* * * * * *

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On the subject of Betty Ireland, she was a huge success outside politics. She was an acclaimed school teacher and businesswoman recognized for her expertise long before becoming the SOS.

* * * * * *

As expected, Republican Congressman Alex Mooney has closed his Charleston office and reportedly laid off staff.

Mooney never has liked West Virginia’s capital city, any way, preferring to get his chicken sandwiches elsewhere. 

Incredibly, near the end of his record-breaking terms as Charleston’s mayor, Danny Jones said he had met Mooney just once.

Do you get that? The Congressman for the capital city located in his district has seen the mayor thereof once.

Talk about taking something for granted.

Mooney built a West Virginia political career on being unbeatable in the Eastern Panhandle. He had the race won by the time he passed Grant County. Kanawha County was never a real factor.

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Despite having an obscure Charleston office in a classic building, Mooney gave Kanawha County little or no attention. Constituent services in Kanawha were woefully inadequate.

Now, redistricting caused by the 2020 Census put Charleston in a district with Huntington and Beckley. Mooney got more of the north including the Northern Panhandle. 

So, although his new term doesn’t start until January, Mooney divested himself of a Charleston office early.

Parting must have been such sweet sorrow for Mooney and the town.

The assumption is that Mooney will replace his Charleston office with one in Wheeling when his new district kicks in January 1.

* * * * * *

Meanwhile, will Charleston fall so low on the Federal House pecking order that it won’t even have an office for its new Congresswoman Carol Miller?

That’s not likely.

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Heretofore, Miller had offices in Beckley, Bluefield and Huntington. With election in a different district, she has already closed the Bluefield office.

The assumption is that a Miller Charleston office will replace Bluefield in January.

Charleston will undoubtedly retain an office. What an insult it would be if it didn’t. 

* * * * * *

Mooney is already running for the U.S. Senate in 2024 which opened the House door for Republican State Treasurer Riley Moore to walk in.

Moore is clearly the early favorite to follow in the footsteps of his late grandfather, the iconic Arch A. Moore, Jr. and Riley’s aunt, Shelley Moore Capito. She is now a U.S. Senator.

* * * * * *

With Mooney Campaign Manager John Findlay leading the way, expect the GOP to constantly attack Democrat incumbent Senator Joe Manchin.

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Negative campaign tactics head the resumes for both Findlay and Mooney. It’s interesting that Mooney, the Maryland lover, chose Findlay, who nearly killed off the Virginia GOP as director, to run his West Virginia campaign.

Mooney calls Manchin President Joe Biden’s “chief enabler,” in the opening salvo of name-calling. There will be much more from the GOP side. 

Findlay earlier summed things up. “Alex Mooney’s strong foundation with West Virginia voters, shown by his strong 2022 victories. Mooney’s proven conservative voting record and past support from President Trump make him the strongest candidate to defeat Democrat Joe Manchin, who has become far too liberal for West Virginia,” the campaign manager said.

* * * * * *

Let me say it once more: I have a habit of underestimating Mooney. But if he can beat Manchin, I’ll simply be shocked.

The man is from Maryland.

* * * * * *

There’s no doubt Mooney has benefitted from the support of former President Trump. The Trump support helped Mooney beat fellow Republican Congressman David McKinley by a landslide. 

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And it will help Mooney against Manchin but not like the McKinley thrashing.

* * * * * *

Every regular reader knows my high regard for two extraordinary political consultants in the state.

Democrat Larry Puccio and Republican Greg Thomas are political geniuses.

Even with his friendship for Republican Governor Jim Justice, Puccio will be at Manchin’s side against Mooney.

It will, then, be Puccio the political genius, versus the Original Amateur Hour’s John Findlay. From the strategic viewpoint, then, it’s no contest with Manchin the clear winner.

* * * * * *

Cabell Countians and anyone else interested can stop by the courthouse in Huntington on Wednesday, December 28; to see new County Clerk Scott Caserta sworn in.

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The 1:30 p.m. event will signal the first Republican Cabell County Clerk term in memory – or maybe forever. 

Meanwhile, Huntington businessman Joshua Garnes has formed an exploratory committee to look at running for mayor in 2024.

The seat will be open with the retirement of current Democrat Mayor Steve Williams.

* * * * * *

Capitol observers say it’s not just seasoned officeholders looking at plans for 2024.

Nobody would be surprised if new Republican Kanawha State Senator Mike Stuart threw his hat in the ring for Attorney General. 

Stuart’s experience as a former U.S. Attorney makes a run for AG at some point logical.

Another new Kanawha GOP Senator, Mark Hunt, has legislative experience which might lead him into a statewide shot in two years.

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Others, like Cabell County’s Daniel Linville, will likely decide to either run for re-election and try to move on up the leadership ladder or seek a statewide position.

The big plus for those like Stuart and fellow Senator Hunt is that they don’t generally have to give up their Senate seats to run for something else.

Hunt’s legislative history makes him an ideal current committee member and potential statewide candidate in 2024.

Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185; ronjgregory@gmail.com; or P.O. Box 20297, Charleston, WV 25362. Confidentiality 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. View all posts

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.