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Editorial

Gregory’s Web – August 6, 2023

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Ron Gregory political columnist

Jefferson County fireball, Republican County Commissioner Trish Jackson, announced her 2024 candìdacy last week for State Auditor.

Never accused of being a shrinking violet, Jackson said in an exclusive interview that she plans to travel the state between now and the May primary.

One thing that makes me appreciate Jackson as a public servant is that she is a true proponent of transparency and open government.

Jackson definitely knows how to FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) government material herself but she is a proponent of making government operations open and accessible. At present, she agrees with me that FOIA is overly burdensome for the public.

The Jefferson Commissioner stands up for what she believes in. She’ll confront her four fellow commissioners, other public officials or just about anyone if she sees the need.

One thing is for sure; you’ll seldom have to wonder where Jackson stands on the issues. She is a lifetime Republican, not one of those who recently “found” their party credentials after West Virginia became a solidly red state.

Still, “I’m a conservative first and a Republican second” is how she prefers to explain herself.

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She was surrounded by friends, family, other county officials and lots of supporters when she made her announcement. Jackson lives in Harpers Ferry.

When we spoke, she was complimentary of incumbent Republican State Auditor JB McCuskey. He had announced he would run for Governor but recently changed his plans and said he will file for Attorney General next year.

While Jackson is clearly a proponent of transparency, she stressed her background as evidence that she’s “uniquely qualified to be the State Auditor.”

As a commissioner and in personal life she said she emphasizes fiscal responsibility.

In that regard, she said she supports the WVCheckbook program but believes improvements can be made to increase transparency and make access easier.

She said she intends to make the system introduced by McCuskey “even more user-friendly.”

In addition, she said she will open reporting to any agency, non-profit or other organization that receives public funding.

“If taxpayers provide funding to an organization, they have a right to know what that money is used for,” she said.

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Like McCuskey, she said she will aggressively investigate and work with prosecutors to pursue fraud or misuse of public funds.

Running as she is with her Commission term not set to expire until 2026, Jackson has the luxury of being able to remain as Commissioner while campaigning for Auditor. That’s good for the people of Jefferson County.

Voters will find her very far right wing and she told me she remains a “strong supporter of President Trump.”


Speaking of being a strong Trump supporter, various sources as well as our most recent poll tell me former political prisoner and Delegate Derrick Evans is making headway in his First District Congressional race.

Republican Evans, known best as the newly-elected Delegate who went to prison for his role in the January 6, 2021 rally at the national capitol, is hitting the campaign trail hard. He is clearly moving up on incumbent Republican Carol Miller.

Evans still sees and communicates with Trump and is an outspoken supporter of the former President.

His declarations of continuing to be for Trump contrast directly with the moderate Miller, who refuses to say if she endorses Trump’s re-election.

I have two major observations on that.

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First, Miller might never have made it to Congress if not for the “Trump effect” in West Virginia.

In addition, as one Charleston political consultant put it, “When she’s the Republican Congresswoman running in a district that’s 80% for Trump, it’s a no-brainer that she should openly support him.”

If a truly conservative PAC or two get wind that Evans could beat her, Miller might just have the race she never expected.


Pleasants County Republican Donna Boley is “still thinking” about her re-election in 2024.

The queen of the upper chamber has been there since then-Governor Arch Moore appointed her to the vacancy created by the resignation of Sam White in 1985.

In fact, she was Senate Minority Leader in those long-ago days of 1991 and 1992 when the GOP was so unrepresented, she was the only Republican in the Senate.

If Boley decides to retire, it would be a major loss for the Senate and the state.

Speculation has centered on GOP Delegate Trenton Barnhart, first appointed to the House in 2019 by Governor Jim Justice, as a possible replacement when Boley does retire.

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The youthful Barnhart has done a good job in the House and would be the odds-on favorite if Boley steps away.


As far as the Auditor’s race is concerned, rumors are strong that former Wood County GOP Chair Rob Cornelius will file for that office. He pre-filed as undeclared concerning which office he will seek.

Cornelius’ campaign committee is colorfully named “Make Rob C. Great Again.”

Cornelius was chairman of the Republican Party in 2015 in Wood County and headed the effort to remove then-Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell from office. 

The office of auditor has the power to investigate corruption in state government, Cornelius pointed out to the Parkersburg News-Sentinel.

“In terms of cleaning up state government, that’s the place to be,” Cornelius told the paper.

You may remember Cornelius as the county Chair unceremoniously removed by former State Chair Melody Potter. At the time she accused him of creating disunity and attacking her on social media.

Neither, even if true, are removable offenses.

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Cornelius is a bright Republican strategist who doubles as the color analyst for Ohio University football and basketball.

Potter stepped over the legal line in removing Cornelius. He filed suit and judgment went his way.

Potter, a likable yet dictatorial personality, obviously simply removed Cornelius for personal reasons, as noted. She clearly didn’t like him.

If Cornelius runs and he and his pals, consultant supreme Greg Thomas and former State Chair Conrad Lucas, combine strategy for his campaign, he will be tough to beat.


Republican Delegate Steve Westfall has said he will not seek re-election, opting instead to run for a seat on the Jackson County Commission next year.

Westfall made the announcement on a Ravenswood radio station.

“The current seat that I’ll be running for is held by Mike Randolph,” he told WMOV radio. “Mike and I have had several discussions and talked about it. He’s encouraged me. Mike is not going to run again due to health issues.”

Westfall was first elected to the House in 2012, replacing Mitch Carmichael, who ran instead for the State Senate.

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He is another representative who has seen the state turn from solidly blue to red.

Westfall emphasized Republican legislation he said has set the stage for job growth and economic development.

“I think I’ve done a lot. I’ve supported Jackson County, but it’s somebody else’s time to step up and represent the 16th district,” he concluded. 


Count former Kanawha Delegate Larry Pack “in” for the GOP Treasurer race. I reported earlier that Pack, now an aide to Governor Jim Justice, was also considering Secretary of State in 2024. He’s finally filed pre-candidacy for an undeclared office but has told friends his eye is on the Treasurer position.

Incumbent Republican Treasurer Riley Moore is running for Congress District Two in 2024.


Republican for Secretary of State, Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood, and I had a nice chat last week.

Wood did much to modernize and whip the county clerk’s office into shape since first being elected.

If he can raise some money and get out among the people, he’ll be tough to beat.

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Wood is definitely one of my favorite elected officials and has a great personality. Voters like him.


As a 55-year veteran of political warfare, I am fascinated at the Biden weaponization of the Department of Justice.

Now, they’ve managed to indict Trump for something thousands could be charged with on a regular basis.

Prosecutor Jack Smith appears to actually believe Trump tried to “reverse” the 2020 election results.

If Trump calling state officials and asking them to “find me the votes to win your state” is illegal, a lot more illegality has gone on than Smith can possibly imagine.

In my career, I’d estimate that I was hired 20 or 25 times to represent candidates in tight races. They had either been ahead or behind by a handful of votes when ballots were tallied.

A few days after the election, in West Virginia, the County Commissioners meet as Boards of Canvassers.

Their job is to go over the results and certify their accuracy. This includes ruling on whether to count any challenged ballots or “provisional ballots” as they are now called.

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Those rulings can change the outcome in a tight race. So it can be helpful for a candidate to have an observer present to see what goes on.

I can remember five or six, but I would bet that nearly all the 25 who employed me said somewhere in the hiring process, “Now find me the votes to win.”

That did NOT mean “go out and alter or steal enough votes for me to win.” It was simply encouragement to do a good job for the candidate.

If any jury convicts Donald Trump of trying to intimidate an official to reverse his loss based on those statements, there aren’t enough jails in the world to house his fellow convicts.


State Republican Chair Elgine McArdle issued a strong statement about the Biden DOJ.

Democrats’ attempts to interfere in the 2024 election continue, while it’s becoming clear that Joe Biden and his family were involved in serious criminal conduct and coverups involving selling influence to foreign countries and engaging in tax fraud,” she said. 

“The more that comes out about the Biden crime family, the harder they will come after President Trump and anyone who stands in their way of power.”

Excellent, Madame Chair. Better than Mark Harris? Absolutely.

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Former Boone County Democrat State Senator Ron Stollings was recently honored with the 2023 West Virginia Rural Health Leadership Award.

Stollings is a longtime Madison physician. 

Southern West Virginia Health Systems called Dr. Stollings “an experienced and passionate provider at our Madison Medical clinic.”

It continued, “This award acknowledges Dr. Stollings’ leadership and initiative in strengthening the quality of health care and improving the overall access, well-being and health of all West Virginians.”

As a patient of Dr. Stollings, I can testify to his patience and expertise.

I’d say he’s responsible for my being alive today but I don’t want to get him in trouble with my enemies.

Congratulations, Doc!


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Congresswoman Miller may not be a toe-the-line conservative but the same cannot be said about the state’s other Republican Congressman, Alex Mooney.

The Second District Representative recently introduced a bill that would eliminate the House of Representatives Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The office was created as one of the first acts of the 116th Congress, which convened on January 3, 2019, after Democrats took control of the House during the 2018 primary.

“These offices start with the premise that white people are inheritably racist and oppressive. The House of Representatives does not need bureaucrats promoting this divisive ideology,” Mooney’s office said in a press release.

A press release that, like all others Mooney’s office distributes, was not sent to me. Asking to be placed on the Congressman’s mailing list gets me nowhere since I refuse to kiss his carpetbagger rear.

“The House voted to eliminate all diversity and inclusion offices at the Pentagon in the National Defense Authorization Act. The House should abide by the same standards we set for federal agencies across the government, which is why I have introduced this resolution to eliminate the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion,” Mooney said in the release.

It couldn’t be that he introduced it because he is not inclusive, could it?


Apparently, I’m only wrong about Governor Justice when I give him credit for good work.

Last week, I pointed out that Justice had fiddled, apparently, while Alderson Broaddus University went under. He had, however, finally intervened at the last minute, asking for a reprieve for the small, private Phillipi school.

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As I completed last week’s column, it was announced that AB had gotten enough funds together to keep its utilities on. It seemed, coming from both the city and school, that closure had been avoided.

So I said that.

But on Monday, we learned it was too little, too late as the state governing board repealed AB’s right to issue valid degrees after December 31.

Thus, those in charge at the state level, ignored pleas from Justice and the AB administration to give the school more time.

Colleges like Glenville and Fairmont State University will now try to rescue the university-homeless AB students and thus increase their own enrollments.

It’s yet another pothole on the Justice “Road to Prosperity.”


Northern District U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld was recently appointed chair of the Washington-Baltimore High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) executive board.

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That board supports 43 drug task forces in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. 

In addition to drug seizures, they also enhance treatment and prevention.

In 2022, the units disrupted the sale of more than $100 million of drugs, including fentanyl and methamphetamine, according to public records.

Ihlenfeld said he’s working to strengthen the response to the threat of Mexican drug cartels.

He previously served as chair of the Appalachian High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. That includes parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Ihlenfeld was a State Senator from 2018 to 2021.


I commented on the sadness surrounding the death, a few months ago, of former State Senator Billy Wayne Bailey.

In cleaning out some old notebooks, I realized I failed to mention the “Who’s Who” of West Virginia politics that attended his remembrance services.

Among those in the crowd were Senators John Unger, Ron Stollings, Chuck Smith, Truman Chafin, Doug Facemire, Mike Romano, Martha Walker, Art Kirkendoll, Justice Bill Wooton, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, Walt Helmick, Corey Palumbo, and Dan Foster.

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All acknowledged the compassion and sincerity of Bailey, shed a few tears, and shared some food but mostly chuckled – as Bailey would have – at the amusing stories they recalled involving the colorful late Senator.


On the subject of a political and social “Who’s Who” list, there was another one that turned out for the opening of the Rahall Congressional Archives house in Beckley last week.

The collection is located on the WVU Institute of Technology campus.

Former Democrat Congressman Nick Joe Rahall, whose documents are on display, was the main speaker and honored guest.

Rahall, the model of what a public servant should be, represented his district longer than anyone in state history. He served in Congress from 1977 until the Republican tidal wave took him out in 2014.

Honoring Rahall with their attendance were such luminaries as the lady who now holds what would have been 

Rahall’s seat, Congresswoman Carol Miller; and United States Senator Joe Manchin.

Other state officials, including legislators, were led by Governor Justice.

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Representing higher education was WVU Tech President  T. Ramon Stuart; Dr. E. Gordon Gee, President of West Virginia University; and Dean Karen Diaz of West Virginia University Libraries.

Rahall is recognized as the youngest-ever elected member of the House of Representatives.

He donated most of his archival material to WVU Libraries’ West Virginia and Regional History Center in Morgantown. He did that in his first year out of office.

He was born May 20, 1949, in Beckley, and first won election to the House in 1976. 

He began his political service in the early 1970s working in the cloakroom of the U.S. Senate. Then, he was a staff member in the Senate Office of the Majority Whip Robert C. Byrd from 1971 to 1974. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1972 and 1976.

Rahall retired from elective politics after losing the 2014 election to Republican Evan 

Jenkins. He realized then, he said, that West Virginia’s political pendulum had swung from Democrat to Republican.

The state’s political balance “shifted dramatically under my feet,” he said recently.

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“I was the number one target on the GOP’s list nationally in 2014,” he said, and the Republican power in the state had grown. 

“If you have a ‘D’ by your name now, forget it,” the ex-Congressman said.

Obviously, Rahall knows why many West Virginia officeholders have shifted from Democrat to the GOP.


Rahall definitely experienced the ups and downs of state politics with most of it positive until the very end.

After being elected in 1976, he was re-elected for 19 terms, serving from January 3, 1977 to January 2, 2015.

On the upside, Rahall caught a break in 1976 when incumbent Democrat Congressman Ken Hechler chose to run in the primary for Governor. Rahall coasted to the House nomination while Hechler lost to Jay Rockefeller. 

Hechler organized and ran an aggressive write-in campaign that fall. Rahall spent more than $100,000 and defeated the Congressman in the general election.

Hechler tried again in the 1978 primary. However, Rahall gathered the support of establishment Democrats like Byrd and House Speaker Tip O’Neill. He won with 56% of the vote.

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Apparently thinking the third time would be the charm, Hechler ran against Rahall in 1990 but lost.

In the fall 1990 campaign, Rahall faced a tough general election challenge from Republican Marianne Brewster. He held on by four percent.

The Congressman faced token opposition for the next 20 years. That changed in 2010, when former Supreme Court Justice Elliot “Spike” Maynard from Mingo County ran a high-profile campaign.

It turned out Maynard had baggage, having switched from Democrat to Republican to make the race.

Although it heightened my opinion of Maynard, he was also linked to former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, a highly controversial figure in the southern coalfields.

Rahall easily defeated the ex-Justice in November.

He was re-elected in a difficult 2012 race for his final win.

Rahall said the change in the political landscape started in 2000, with the decline of the coal industry and the GOP platform relating more to issues he summarizes  as “gays, God, and guns.”

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Rahall, along with other former Congressmen Alan Mollohan, Harley “Buckey” Staggers, and Cleve Benedict, are what I call “the peoples’ congressmen.”

Those, along with southern West Virginia’s Kee family (father, wife, and son), knew their constituents personally and responded to their needs. Folks on Main Street in their districts saw their representatives regularly.

I miss routine visits with Congressman Rahall. I never ended up in a hospital without him being the first to call to ask if I needed anything.

Nobody is more deserving of recognition than Nick Joe Rahall.

Congratulations Congressman.


Finally (at last), I hope you’re catching our new weekly news show, “WV Uncovered” each Saturday. And you can always hear my charm and personality at 8:30 Mondays on the Tom Roten Morning Show on AM 800WVHU, Huntington.

Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185 or ron.gregory@wvstatewide.com.

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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

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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.

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