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Editorial

Gregory’s Web – March 19, 2023

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Ron Gregory Political Columnist - WV Statewide News

The spectacle of removing an elected state senator from his statehouse chamber seat while in session brings to mind scary thoughts of despotic government rule.

The  only real difference in 

Russian Chairman Vladimir Lenin’s disposal of Peoples Commissioner Leon Trotsky in 1940 is that the Communists did most of their dirty work in view of average citizens while state senators hide behind closed doors much of the time to do theirs.

Well, there’s a more glaring difference, of course. Temporarily defrocked Randolph/Upshur County Republican Senator Robert Karnes is still living while Trotsky was not.

So there are advantages to living in a republic after all. A high ranking leader cannot just do away with the opponent when there’s a disagreement.

But similarities are obvious.too.

Laws and courts have traditionally held that the will of the voter is supreme. That’s why it’s next to impossible to remove an elected official.

Generally speaking, the hoops to jump through in trying to remove any elected official make it impractical to even try. Rather .than gather petitions, file legal action and pursue removal, officials just wait for the next election and let the voters decide if an incompetent and/or crooked official should be removed.

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But Senate President Craig Blair apparently had no time to waste when he had Karnes removed from the chamber. It followed repeated efforts by Karnes to have all bills read in their entirety.

Blair maintained the right to make such a request was not applicable at the time.

Karnes didn’t accept that ruling and kept shouting “Mr. President!” directed toward Blair.

Finally, the Senate President called a brief recess. Returning minutes later, the  longest serving member, Republican Donna Boley of Pleasants County, rose and read a motion to direct the sergeant-at-arms to qqremove Karnes from the chamber.

Although the motion passed, it was probably unnecessary since Blair could – and likely would – have done it on his own.

Karnes cooled his heels in the outside hallway until there was another recess. When senators returned after that break, Karnes was back in his seat with no apparent repercussions. Here’s the big point: though it was brief, it only took a power-crazed Senate President moments to deprive the voters of Upshur and Randolph counties of one of their duly-elected legislative representatives.

No legislation was passed during Karnes’ enforced absence. No real damage was done THIS TIME. 

I’m no big “what if” guy but what if, next time a Senator so offends the President he  expels him and a major controversial vote is on the agenda? What if the bill is.decided by just one vote?

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Then tossing a duly elected representative from his seat becomes a major problem.

* * * * * *l

I hope it didn’t take a national polling firm and 600 responses to convince readers that I am right, as usual, about the 2024 governor’s race.

Black Bear PAC commissioned the survey that said 28% of Republicans prefer Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to be their nominee. Delegate Moore Capito came in second, at 13%.

National Research Inc. 

conducted the poll which put Secretary of State Mac Warner third, at 11%. Nobody else registered double figures and 29% were undecided.

That “nobody else” would include State Auditor JB McCuskey and Huntington auto dealer Chris Miller. I’ve said all along that Morrisey is the obvious leader. He has been an effective AG and led attorneys general nationally in fighting Democrat pet projects and rules. He’s a solid conservative and has quite a right wing following.

Morrisey nearly beat popular Democrat U.S. Senator Joe Manchin in 2018.

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The AG may be second only to Moore Capito’s mother, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, in popularity among the state’s Republican elected officials.

Readers might keep in mind that the Black Bear PAC firmly supports Morrisey. One of their leaders told Breitbart that the group plans to spend more than $6 million to get Morrisey elected.

I have repeatedly observed over the years that sponsors of polls generally do well.

I don’t believe anyone lies or misrepresents the results. It may just be that winners have more money to do polls than losers. One result of this poll may be that it limits Morrisey opponents’ ability to raise money. That would particularly be true for Capito, who needs the “feel” of a winner to make it  a tighter race.

* * * * * *

Also-rans in the Black Bear poll were Huntington auto dealer Miller at six percent with State Auditor McCuskey and former State Senator Jeff Mullins of Beckley in at three percent each.

Miller is the son of Congresswoman Carol Miller.

* * * * * *

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As I told Morrisey recently, the governorship is his to lose. With former President Trump leading the ticket, the Republican nominee will be the overwhelming favorite to win in 2024.

Trump’s West Virginia favorability rating was at 79% in that most recent poll.

* * * * * *

Elgine, we hardly got to know you.

State Republican Chair Elgine McArdle announced last week her employment move to a second office in Virginia. The move apparently triggered her change of address.

It’s quite a commute from her established Wheeling office to the new one at Smith Mountain Lake.

Presumably, McArdle will retain a Wheeling residence. Up until now that has been  listed as the Wheeling office. She has been very busy the past few weeks trying to strong-arm members of the executive committee into wholesale changes in the bylaws. As we discussed here before, the changes are designed to give legislators more power on the committee.

The GOP is so secretive I have no idea whether the current or proposed bylaws would require the state chair to live in the state. Many think McArdle is just chair in name only with Vice Chair Tony Hodge actually running the party anyway. 

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Hodge devotees apparently think officially making him chair would violate the federal Hatch Act since he is a postal employee. It’s inexplicable how they don’t think being vice chair violates the same act.

Of course, operation of the state GOP is largely inexplicable to begin with.

* * * * * *

Technically, Blair was probably right about Karnes having no right to demand full reading of every bill when he did. That right could have legally been claimed  at other times but likely not when Karnes did it. Still, Blair did not give a clear explanation of his ruling and was probably spoiling for a confrontation with Karnes who had denounced Blair earlier in the week. 

Clearly, as I mentioned about the earlier verbal scuffle here last week, Karnes made strong accusations about Blair’s honesty.

Karnes all but called the President crooked in his calculations of income for himself. Anyone who knows Blair knows that didn’t sit well.

Honestly, it wouldn’t sit well with anyone.

I still believe it’s scary to think of the ramifications of dictatorial rule.

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And in the name of transparency, what would it have hurt to read the damn bills as Karnes requested? 

* * * * * *

Stop the presses!

Oh, we don’t have any presses. Anyway, Quintin “Browwn Clowwn” Caldwell has pre-filed as an independent for governor!

He has not been included in any of the pre-election polling I’ve seen so all the surveys may prove invalid for 2024.

I assume he wants listed on the ballot exactly as he pre-filed.

Steven Harris has pre-filed as a Republican for Secretary of State. That’s the office Warner is vacating to run for governor.

Numerous potential candidates around the state have pre-filed for the legislature.

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* * * * * *

Statehouse rumors have it that new Republican State Senator Mike Stuart will run for Attorney General next year.

Stuart is best known as the former drug-fighting U.S. Attorney for southern West Virginia and would be a strong contender.

Stuart, of Kanawha County, is thought to be Morrisey’s choice as a successor.

A long time Kanawha politico scoffed at the gossip. “Doesn’t matter if he’s Patrick’s choice and a sure winner for AG,” the pol said. “Mike’s got such an ego he can’t run for anything less than governor.”

Stuart won his Senate seat in 2022, defeating long time Democrat Senator Ron Stollings of Boone County.

We’ll see if he can “stand” to run for AG.

* * * * * *

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Another rumor has gubernatorial aide Larry Pack running for the State Auditor post McCuskey is giving up to run for governor. Both are Republicans.

Pack is a former Kanawha Delegate who is the state GOP’s national committeeman. He gave up his House seat to accept Justice’s assistant position.

* * * * * *

Kanawha Republican Senator Mark Hunt says he’s considering a run for “any of the statewide offices except governor and Ag Commissioner.”

Hunt, a Charleston lawyer, has unique qualifications for all of the open seats. He would sink Pack’s state auditor bid if both file. There’s not enough votes in the Kanawha Valley to divide it two ways and win a statewide race. 

His entry into the AG race would have a similar effect on Stuarf’s potential candidacy. Hunt is also unique in that he was a longtime Democrat legislator before switching to Republican. He clearly ran well with Democrats when elected to the senate in 2022.

* * * * * *

By the time you read this, Homeland Security’s much-anticipated investigation of the State Police should be complete.

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“Right now, I am trying to hold my tongue and absolutely be professional and respectful to allow the investigation to be completed,” said Justice last week. That’s mighty nice of him to be professional for a change.

His public pronouncements on the matter have underscored the seriousness of charges.ll

He has also noticeably withheld personal support for his “old friend,” Police Superintendent Jan Cahill.

The Governor said it will be “a bad day for several people” when the investigation concludes. 

There’s a case, I suspect, where Justice is telling the truth.

Cahill obviously has not been happy with the investigation since learning it was launched without his knowledge.

* * * * *

Without trying to be a snob, can I just say it’s not the most sophisticated voters in the world who account for Governor Justice’s popularity?

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They are voters who love the 

Mr. Haney impersonation. And the old Green Acres character and the Gov have much in common.

In addition to hokey explanations for every silly thing they do, they both generally wind up coming out of every situation smelling like a rose.

So Justice denied rumors last week that he wanted to sell the family coal business to prepare for a 2024 run for U.S. Senate. That may be true.

But a GOP legislator has a different thought. Maybe now Justice will benefit so much from recently passed tax legislation that it makes the sale much more financially attractive for him.

Justice fought an amendment that would have cut taxes but favored much the same thing 

during the legislative session. “It could be he didn’t see the light but saw the green color of money,” the legislator smiled.

Big Jim has a habit of looking out for himself.

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* * * * * 

Fox News had to admit Manchin only received a “nominal amount” of campaign donations from those associated with Silicon Valley Bank when they did stories on the bank’s collapse 

last week.

Some are blaming a 2018 change in banking regulations for the second largest bank failure in history. 

Manchin and 16 other Democrats joined easing the regulations four years ago. Some of those Democrats received huge cpntributions from those associated with SVB, according to Fox.

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.

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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.