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Gregory’s Web – March 5, 2023

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Ron Gregory Political Columnist - WV Statewide News

You might say West Virginia’s senior U.S. Democrat Senator Joe Manchin “woke” his party colleagues again last week.It’s an exercise in good government and good politics that the moderate Manchin has done repeatedly in an equally divided senate.

From all appearances, the Senator votes for what he feels is best for the country and his home state – not.his political party. That’s refreshing in an age where partisan politics is king. Manchin is definitely no sure vote for anything Democrat President Joe Biden sends his way.

Of course, it’s sometimes hard to know which side of an issue Biden is really on. He switches quite often.

One of the issues Manchin initially sided with Republicans on would have weakened punishment for crimes in Washington’s nation D.C. Biden said he favored the bill.

But when it became obvious that Manchin’s vote would kill the legislation, Biden announced that he was against it too.

Biden begs the question: who, exactly, is on first? 

But the other issue this time is a “woke” Biden program that would control investing along liberal lines. The GOP and Manchin give those against the bill enough votes to override it.

It’s safe to say the Senator understands his home state’s electorate. He knows 70% of West Virginia voters cast ballots for GOP President Donald Trump two years ago. That support is now stronger than ever. He also knows the entire West Virginia congressional delegation (except for him) and the board of public works are Republicans. The GOP has a super duper majority in both houses of the legislature.

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Republicans oppose “woke.” So does Manchin.

But Manchin was open-minded and never a sure Democrat or liberal vote long before his state turned Republican a decade ago.

When Manchin lost the Democrat gubernatorial primary to Kanawha State Senator Charlotte Pritt in 1996, he openly supported former Republican Governor Cecil Underwood in the general election. With Manchin’s help, Underwood defeated Pritt.

Ordinarily, supporting the other party’s candidate after losing a primary, would be a kiss of political death.

But Manchin is no o⁹rdinary politician. Having served in both the House of Delegates and State Senate prior to the losing gubernatorial bid, Manchin retained strong support in the Democrat party. He came back to be elected Secretary of State in 2000 where he remained until 2004. Then it was on to the Governor’s Mansion where he stayed until being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010’s special election to finish the late Robert C. Byrd’s term.

He’s been there ever since and he’s become a nearly unbeatable force.

By the way, Manchin defeated perennial GOP candidate John Raese, 53 to 43 percent for Byrd’s seat in 2010.

More accurately, it was Carte Goodwin’s seat. He was Manchin’s temporary appointee to the spot when it first became vacant.

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The investment bill allows investment managers to factor climate change and social goals into retirement savings decisions.

A Kentucky congressman summed it up: “Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, we think most Americans don’t want politics to be a factor in allocating their capital and determining whether or not they’re going to have a secure retirement,” he said.

Keeping his “woke” colleagues on their toes can’t hurt Manchin’s re-election chances. Sometimes he may have to step on those toes as well.

* * * * * *

In January, Republican Secretary of State Mac Warner announced his candidacy for governor in 2024.

Warner is obviously a serious candidate with a reasonable chance of being elected governor.

Showing the seriousness of his campaign, the Secretary has hired former Republican Governors Association official Clinton Soffer as general consultant and chief strategist.

Soffer most recently served as the Deputy Political Director for the Republican Governors Association.  Prior to that, he served in a number of roles at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee and Republican National Committee.

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Delegate Moore Capito still has the huge consultant advantage in that race. If campaign strategy wins the 2024 Republican Governor primary, Capito has hands down the favorite in consultant supreme Larry Puccio.

* * * * * *

Speaking of Manchin, who can forget the early days of the Biden administration when former First Lady Gayle Manchin, Joe’s wife, was appointed Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission?

At that time the Senate was equally divided along party lines, 50-50. Democrat bills only passed if every Dem held true to the party and everyone knew Joe Manchin.was a maverick who might not stick.

National pundits wondered aloud if Biden was trying to “buy” Senator Manchin’s loyalty by appointing his wife to the prestigious, high-paying position with the ARC.

Now, we know if the President thought appointing Gayle guaranteed Joe’s support, he misjudged it badly.

Gayle Manchin remains solidly in the job she’s well-qualified for and her husband votes his conscience on every bill that comes before him. That’s just one of the reasons Senator Manchin is unbeatable as Republican Congressman Alex Mooney will soon learn.

* * * * * *

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As we’ve been telling you here for weeks, Republican State Auditor J.B. McCuskey is running for governor.

He made it official last week.

The auditor promised an aggressive campaign. “We will out work, we will out think, we will out hustle every single one of our opponents and anybody who’s ever seen me do anything will tell you that that is true. You deserve absolutely nothing less than my greatest effort.”

Making the announcement before an impressive crowd in Charleston, McCuskey planned to kick off his campaign by traveling to 

Morgantown, Clarksburg, Shepherdstown, Fayetteville, Huntington and Beckley.

He was joined at the announcement by his wife, Wendy, and two daughters. Also attending was his father, attorney John F. McCuskey, who served as a state Supreme Court Justice for one ⁸year by appointment. The candidate’s mother, Anne McCuskey, is deceased. She was very active in GOP party politics and served as an assistant to Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito. Coincidentally, Capito’s son, Delegate Moore Capito, is also running as a Republican for governor in 2024.

McCuskey is serving his second term as auditor. While not legally binding, he has stated that he favors a two-term limit for members of the state board of public works.

McCuskey said his office has emphasized transparency through initiatives like the WVCheckbook.gov tool allowing taxpayers to access real-time data on state spending and the office made strong.anti-fraud efforts through a public integrity unit, McCuskey said.

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“This government under my watch will hide nothing from you,” he said at the campaign announcement. “You will know what we did, why we did it and who we bought it from. Because in the next election, you deserve to hold every single person that puts their name on that line accountable for every single action that they’ve made.”

And the crowd said, “amen” not spoken, but silently.

In keeping with his openness goal, we’re hoping McCuskey has a perfectly reasonable explanation why a prayer breakfast invitation says it is being put on by him and the state Republican party yet the paid for disclaimer lists only the state party.

Surely, state GOP Chair Elgine McArdle has not already picked McCuskey from a crowded field and made him the party favorite for governor.

* * * * * *

Since it was a prayer breakfast, should God not be listed as a sponsor and get part of the proceeds?

*.*.*.* * *

I duly note that the invitation lists him as “Auditor John McCuskey” not “McCuskey for Governor” but that begs another question. Is a public office joining a political party in putting on a public event? Is that proper?

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Entrance fees were charged. Who gets them and does somebody report them?

Transparency, Mr. Auditor. Transparency.

* * * * * *

In an example of running the state party like Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour, invitations to the prayer breakfast were hand distributed at the state capitol.

One would assume that since that was the distribution point, a state employee or two was given the fund-raising cards.

Such invitations in West Virginia typically contain a 

disclaimer. “Public Employees please disregard” is normally somewhere on a campaign fundraising piece.

But not Chair McArdle’s version. 

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So one cannot solicit a public employee but these invites – not acknowledging that – were distributed in a public building.

With McArdle in charge, we may set a record for election law violation complaints filed.

* * * * * *

I’ve mentioned it before but our readers don’t have to sit on pins and needles waiting for politicians to tell you what they’re running for. We tell you weeks and months before they get around to it.

For example, we told you Warner and McCuskey were running for governor last fall.

Twice-elected Governor Jim Justice is up against a term limit, so the seat will be open in 2024. That means everybody and his cousin is running for the top state job.

Republicans dominate state politics so there are lots more GOP names being tossed in the hat.

Frankly, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams and Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango are the only two Dems regularly mentioned.

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Williams is retiring in 2024 so the timing is right if he ever wants to be Governor. He is an extremely popular mayor.

Salango is the 2020 Democratic Governor candidate who lost to Justice in a landslide.

The Commissioner tells me he’ll make a decision about 2024 later in the summer or fall. He would be a tough opponent.

In Salango’s defense, he was running as a Democrat in a Trump landslide. Plus, Justice’s handling of the Covid crisis just added to his popularity.

Declared candidates for governor so far include Republican Warner of Monongalia County, and Republican House of Delegates Judiciary Chairman Moore Capito of Kanawha. Capito is the son of U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito.

Another political son, Huntington car dealer and Republican Chris Miller is the son of Congresswoman Carol Miller.

Count on Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey running for Governor though he hasn’t announced it yet.

Other Republicans who have pre-filed include animal rescuer Terri Bradshaw of Gandeeville and Rashida Yost of Martinsburg.

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Former Delegate Marshall Wilson has also filed to run under the America Coming Together or ACT party.

Wilson, whose level of brilliance is known only by him, has effectively eliminated himself from ever being elected by leaving the GOP.

* * * * * *

On the subject of Secretary Warner, he and his brothers are sponsoring what they term a “reunion and rally” to benefit Mac Warner’s governor campaign this week.

The rally/reunion will run from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, March 9 

at Bullock Distillery, 121 West Washington Street in Charleston.

Spirits, food, music and fun are promised. 

The five Warner brothers – Mac, Kasey, Monty, Kris and Ben – will be there.

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For more information, call 304-590-1218.

* * * * * *

West Virginia’s toothless tiger Freedom of Information Act gave another typical performance when House of Delegates Clerk Steve Harrison responded to my latest.

I respect Harrison as a good guy and the ultimate professional.

My FOIA was meant to find the House policy toward room space being used for non-legislative purposes. I didn’t get far.

The Clerk let me know that I had asked for no material or documents subject to FOIA.

Apparently there are no written rules on use of rooms. That clears that up as we fly by the seat of our pants as usual.

My concern, as readers know, is that the Alex Mooney for U.S. Senate campaign hosted a “luncheon” in a room among the House suite.

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I wanted to know if the Congressman’s campaign paid a rental fee. If not, I wanted to know if the room is available for any individual, group or organization that stakes it out.

Was Mooney, a Republican, given favor by the GOP legislature? We can only speculate.

It’s like so much at the capitol. Nobody knows what the rules are.

For example, the constitution clearly says legislators take office December 1 after an election.

But the Senate abides by the “Earl Ray Tomblin Rule” that senators take office on the first day of the session. The House rule is even more bizarre.

Based on the Mooney example, I suggest all candidates save money by holding fundraisers in an empty room at the capitol.

Qh, and Harrison did end the letter the way officials do. I can appeal to circuit court. So spend our money and they spend their money to get what should be PUBLIC information. Tsk, tsk

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. 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.