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Editorial

Gregory’s Web – August 13, 2023

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Ron Gregory political columnist

Credit the supermajority Republican State Legislature for making the correct decision to financially support Marshall University’s new Cyber Security Center. 

It will be located across from Old Main in Huntington.

Being a top cyber security enterprise is what MU already is. The school placed at the top of colleges and universities in 2021. It ranked 14th against all competition in another survey against even government agencies. The project positions President Brad Smith to capitalize on his connections in the tech industry and bring a much-needed positive economic change to Huntington.

Brad Smith’s personal politics may not align with a Republican majority legislature, and definitely not the more conservative members of the body – but his tenure at Intuit was remarkable by Silicon Valley standards, and the Wayne County native served in this position for 11 years doubling the company’s customer count and increasing the stock value by 500%.

Republican Delegate Henry Dillon of Wayne, was a negative voice, however. What was he thinking – or not? The Marshall Cyber project has great potential for his area. He challenged Smith’s experiences while CEO of Intuit and attempted to attack the President’s reputation, but was shut down by Speaker Hanshaw.

Republican Delegate D.R. “Buck” Jennings of Taylor County may have shown he is the most dangerous legislator in the House but is probably unbeatable. He regularly registers 70% of the vote.

Jennings commented that the state is not a “big dog” and had no business competing with other states for tech jobs. His comments in general topped the list of the most asinine comments ever made during any particular session. If you do not believe West Virginia can compete with other states for a better future for its citizens you should resign your position.

The response by Technology Chair Daniel Linville of Cabell County put Jennings in his place. The courteous Linville did not mention his GOP colleagues by name.

The center’s economic impact on the state will be huge.

It will be the second of its kind on a college campus in the United States. The other center is the University of Texas at San Antonio. 

As Linville aptly pointed out, the new center is set to bring $35 million in federal Department of Defense funds to the state over the next three years.

Republican Governor Jim Justice proposed a bill directing $45 million towards the construction of the center. The GOP-dominated legislature approved it.

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Toney Stroud, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Marshall, added that MU hopes to become the East Coast hub for cyber security. (Geographically, I’ve never understood how we’re on the East Coast unless everyone accepts that we’re still part of the Mother Commonwealth). Kanawha Democrat Delegate Doug Skaff has said the project gives the state an opportunity to become a leader in cyber security. There are 700,000 vacant positions in the field across the country, according to both Skaff and Linville.

Linville pointed out that this project fulfills the three stated higher education goals for the state.

“Those ideals include students who will stay here, graduate on time and find meaningful employment,” Linville explained. 

He noted “there are already more positions open than we have folks to fill them locally.”

The proposal is expected to generate numerous high-paying jobs in Cabell County, the region and the entire state. 

Marshall intends to collaborate with other West Virginia colleges, including West Virginia University and West Virginia State University, in designing the program.

So let’s all finally cheer the Governor and GOP-led Legislature for getting something right.

Follow that with a rousing round of “boos” for Dillon, Jennings and others who have a negative view of those they supposedly represent.

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They should be primaried and defeated next year. Good riddance to bad … legislators.


On the subject of Marshall, former Congressman Nick Joe Rahall told me last week that he was “overwhelmingly pleased” to see the comradery between Marshall and West Virginia University officials at the opening of his archives exhibit house in Beckley.

“Presidents (Brad) Smith and (E. Gordon) Gee have developed quite a friendship,” Rahall said.

He said Smith of MU and Gee of WVU “talk all the time and meet often.”

I cheered the selection of Smith when he was chosen. It was a great decision and he has Marshall on the move. 

The cyber security program is just one example.

As long as he leads Marshall to historic heights, I don’t care what Smith’s political philosophy is.

On the subject of the Rahall archives on display at WVU-Tech in Beckley, I failed to mention one VIP among the Who’s Who I listed at the grand opening.

Former Democrat Governor Bob Wise was among those who attended.

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Sorry, Governor.


Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, whose sensitivities are easily injured, may want to call on a member of his staff to find out what’s wrong with the Legislature.

The 2024 Republican Governor candidate requested $2 million to hire environmental lawyers.

Despite approving $750 million in the special session, his friendly GOP legislators failed to provide a dime for those new attorneys.

When the AG is unhappy with me, he asks who’s paying me off. Perhaps he should ask legislators the same question.


In another glaring example of West Virginia’s weak Open Meetings Act, the Calhoun County Commission met in a special session on August 9. That was just days before their regularly scheduled August 14 meeting date. 

Selecting a replacement for elected Republican Prosecuting Attorney Nigel Jeffries was supposedly the reason the meeting was moved up. Jeffries had resigned as he moved out of state.

Although there is a three-day notice regulation, the Commission notified the long-established Calhoun Chronicle of the meeting change but not the upstart Ridgeview News.

After the Commission went into executive session to interview applicants for the Attorney position, News Publisher Shari Johnson complained about the lack of public notice of the session date change.

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That came after Crystal Mersh, President of the 1982 Foundation, likewise complained of lack of notice. For those unfamiliar with that group, the 1982 Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to preserving the old Calhoun County High School building in Grantsville.

Calhoun County Clerk Jean Simers told Mersh that the Jeffries’ resignation timing did not leave an opportunity for any advertisement except a three-day notice posted on the courthouse bulletin board.

Simers said that posting complied with the law but Mersh suggested the Commission could do a better job of notifying the public.

Publisher Johnson requested that public notices be provided to the News as well as the Chronicle.

To that, the News reported that Commission President Matt Walker said, “we will try to do better.”

Trying to do better appears to be what many public bodies attempt. Despite the Open Meetings law, access to public information is often denied.

The process of hiring a new Prosecutor was apparently done so rapidly and secretly, who knows if it was proper?

Ironically, the Prosecutor is the chief legal officer in a county, charged with enforcing all laws.

I’ve relayed, however, that no agency or official is required to enforce compliance with the law. Penalties for noncompliance are practically nonexistent so the Calhoun handling of this matter is not rare but common.. 

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Should citizens be expected to stop by their local courthouse and look at the bulletin board to see when the next meeting is? Of course not but that’s not how the Calhoun Clerk sees it.

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Another delegation at the Commission meeting was led by Calhoun Republican Chair Roger Propst. He, like I, has watched the transfer of formerly stalwart Democrats to the GOP since Republicans became the state’s majority party. 

According to the News, “he noted that he too was not pleased with the failure to notify anyone regarding today’s meeting, and that he thought professional courtesy should have been considered.” 

Propst asked how many candidates were interviewed. Commissioner Matthew Walker replied that there were two.

“Any Republicans?” Propst asked. Former Prosecutor Jeffries was a Republican.

To that inquiry, Walker responded, “Both.”  

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Then Propst asked the key question, “How long have they been Republicans?”

Propst obviously knew that one of the candidates, Michael Hicks, was what the News referred to as a “newly minted Republican.”

Propst went on to note that Hicks was indeed a lifelong Democrat, who had served as Chair of the Calhoun Democrat Committee.

In fact, Hicks changed his party registration from Democrat to Republican on July 5, according to Voter’s Registration.

Although Propst said his Executive Committee found the potential appointment of Hicks to be inappropriate, it is not clear if there is a legally-required time period involved. Some offices require that a replacement be of the same party as the official being replaced for a specific number of days before the vacancy occurs.

All appeared to agree that a replacement must be of the same party as the officer being replaced, however.

Propst hinted that Hicks would re-register as a Democrat after a short time in office.

“Every effort should have been made to appoint a Real Republican,” Propst said.

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He called the party switches, “The lowest form of politics.” 

I’ve seen some low-level politics in my day but I’m not  sure switching parties is the lowest.

However, if the switch is made only to win a public appointment and the appointee intends – and does – switch back immediately, that’s pretty low.

I and my old friend, former State Senator Richard Ojeda of Logan, agree that an elected official being elected with one party and changing to another in mid-term is “voter fraud.”

Doing what Propst thinks Hicks will do is definitely lower than that.

Propst said he plans to complain about the Hicks appointment to the Secretary of State.

“Commissioner Kevin Helmick replied in return that he knew of multiple candidates who had used the Democrat party in the same manner, and it was legal,” the Grantsville paper said.

That’s a pretty amazing comment by Helmick.

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Calhoun Commissioners did what they came to do, choosing Hicks as the new Prosecutor on a 2-1 vote. Helmick and Walker voted to appoint him, effective August 19.

That effective date added mud to any otherwise clear message. Why was it so urgent to move the meeting date since it regularly would have been on the 14th? Hicks doesn’t take office until five days later.

Propst said he and his Committee believed that the Commission should have allowed more time by appointing an interim Prosecutor for 30 days.

It seems there’s always a rush when officials are hiding their actions from the public.

Propst said, “They chose to appoint an attorney who has only been an attorney since 2020 and has mostly served as a guardian ad litem in juvenile cases for the past couple years, with no adult criminal experience.”

The GOP Chair concluded, “He now is tasked with filling the shoes of Republican Nigel Jeffries, who did an outstanding job protecting Calhoun County.” 


They’re lining up to try to replace Morgan County Republican Senator Charlie Trump.

With the popular legislator eyeing a spot on the Supreme Court in 2024, two current Republican legislators are said to be interested.

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Republican Delegates George Miller of Morgan and Daryl Cowles of Hampshire County are likely to run, colleagues say.


Whispers at the Cabell County Courthouse last week said that community activist Jan Hite King is now considering a run against Cabell Republican Delegate Evan Worrell.

When I last spoke with King a few weeks ago, she said she was “considering” a run against incumbent Cabell County Republican Commissioner Kelli Sabonya in 2024.


The appointment of Mark Sorsaia to replace Jeff Sandy as the state’s Homeland Security Director likely indirectly removed one potential 2024 Supreme Court candidate.

Kristina “Kris” Raynes was subsequently appointed by the Putnam County Commission to serve out the Sorsaia term. He was the elected county GOP Prosecutor.

Prior to her new appointment, Raynes was an Assistant Putnam Prosecutor.

She’s a Putnam County native who ran for the high court in 2022. having graduated from Buffalo-Putnam High School in 1992. She earned her undergraduate degree from Marshall University and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Akron School of Law in 2000.

In her candidacy for the highest state court three years ago, she placed third in the Division 2 race won by William “Bill” Wooton.

Rumors circulated earlier that she’d take another run at the WVSC in 2024. That’s now unlikely since she will probably campaign for a full term as Prosecutor, friends say.

As reported by this site last week, the appointment makes Raines the first female Prosecutor in Putnam County history.

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Raynes comes from a well-known Putnam County Republican family.

Although judicial races are nonpartisan in West Virginia, Raynes and Jackson County Circuit Judge Lora Dyer were recruited by influential Republicans to run for two separate Supreme Court seats in 2020.

Both are recognized as conservatives in their philosophies.

The recruiters and Republican leaders did not follow through with promised financial and organizational help, resulting in the Raynes and Dyer losses.

Dyer, recruited again for the 2024 election, has opted instead to seek re-election in Jackson and Roane counties.


Proving that the state Republican Party is now keeping up with current events, their leadership is routinely churning out press releases and emails.

One recent email reported that 1.2 million signatures have been gathered by online petitions to remove Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas.

Thomas, who before President Trump, was a liberal Democrat’s worst nightmare, has been targeted for years.

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So, state Republican leaders are seeking signatures demanding that Thomas be kept on the court.

The newly-developed state party activism is refreshing indeed.


With legislators as negative as Dillon and Jennings, mentioned previously, it’s no wonder West Virginians have an inferiority complex.

As a native, I’ve long said those living West of the mountains wish they were true Virginians but can never quite make the grade.

Most West Virginians disagree with me.

However, this is not an analyst’s couch and I am no psychologist. I may need one but I’m not one. 

Anyway, WVWho is about to be joined in the Big 12 athletic conference by some other teams.

One new conference squad is Arizona State. In a recent article bemoaning how long some of the travel distances will be, ASU Athletic Director Ray Anderson discussed his team’s move to the Big 12.

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He immediately scored a low blow toward WVU’s hometown.

“I promise I’m not going to Morgantown. I’m going to assign that to (deputy AD) Jean Boyd,” Anderson said.

“He can go to Morgantown. But send me to Texas and the rivalry with Arizona and starting a new one with BYU, Utah and Colorado,” he added.

So the new kid on the block is too uppity to even send its AD to this state?

Inferiority complex? No wonder.


When I was the too-young-to-be-Mayor of Glenville from 1977 to 79, I didn’t fully appreciate the services provided to our community by volunteer fire departments.

Nowadays, I recognize what these unselfish men and women do for communities throughout the world.

Their life-saving skills are often needed but all too often go unrecognized.

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Here’s another tip of the hat to the Governor and Legislature for finding a $12 million permanent revenue source to help offset some of the VFD’s expenses.

Emergency responders, you are appreciated.


It was just over 49 years ago that President Richard Nixon resigned. I can clearly recall sitting in front of our black-and-white Zenith to watch his speech. He was stoic as always, speaking with a calm voice.

Then, as now, political pageantry intrigued me. I watched the next day as he departed the White House with his usual two-handed “victory” sign.

Little did I know that Nixon’s resignation would give us that Republican stumbling-bumbling version of President Biden, Gerald Ford.

I, frankly, thought Ford was a dunce, unsuited to be President. I yearned for a return of Nixon but that was never to be.

Instead, we got another taste of somebody being in over his head when Democrat Jimmy Carter defeated the appointed chief.

That was 1976 and I was working part-time for Jim Comstock at The West Virginia Hillbilly. In the GOP primary, I backed California Governor and “Death Valley Days” host, Ronald Reagan.

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I was a delegate hunter that year and we nearly knocked off the sitting President in the Republican convention.

Carter was a model for what was to come from Biden. Like our present President,  Carter was overwhelmed.

There was a major difference between Carter and Biden, however. The Georgia peanut farmer was a genuinely good man; Joe Biden is not.

History may have been different if Nixon had not resigned. Ford would likely never have lived in the White House.

Remember that Ford was never elected to anything nationally. He was a Michigan Congressman who became Vice President when the elected Second Man, Spiro Agnew, resigned in disgrace. Nixon appointed Ford who pardoned Nixon and appointed Nelson Rockefeller as his Veep. That brings my thoughts back to Nixon and the burden of disgrace he wore.

Still, I wonder if anything Nixon did could match the corruption of the Biden family?

This is a genuine disgrace.


On the presidential front, national reporters are still fixated on the possibility that West Virginia’s senior U.S. Senator Joe Manchin might break ranks and switch from Democrat to Independent.

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A recent NBC News report centered on Manchin’s dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden.

A year can be an eternity in politics but the story attests to Manchin’s current unhappiness with the President.

The report, by Mike Memoli and Julie Tsirkin, centers on Manchin’s role in the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and his disagreement with how Biden has implemented it.

This week, a major celebration of the bill’s passage at the White House will not include the Senator.

Both the White House and Manchin have made it clear the decision not to attend is solely the Senator’s.

The story says Manchin’s decision not to attend is simply “the latest sign of an increasingly fraught relationship between Manchin, a conservative Democrat, and the Biden administration.”

In that regard, it’s amazing how the image of the Senator has transformed from “moderate Democrat” to “conservative Democrat” in such a short period of time. 

Manchin was successful in getting language in the bill that he thought would protect the coal industry. It hasn’t worked out that way with Biden’s handling of it. That has created a rift between the President and Senator, according to NBC.

The article also highlights the possibility that Manchin will finish off Biden’s already bleak chances at re-election by running himself as an independent for President.

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On that subject, I still expect Manchin to run for re-election, not President, in 2024.

In the meantime, he’ll distance himself more and more from the unpopular Biden.


Justice continues to amaze with his statewide popularity.

Despite his absentee approach, the latest Morning Consult poll ranks him as the nation’s tenth most popular Governor.

That bodes well for his 2024 U.S. Senate campaign against Congressman Alex Mooney.


The list is out of those wanting to be appointed to retiring Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom’s position.

The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission received applications from Stephanie Abraham, Kevin Baker, Harry Clair Bruner Jr., Anne Charnock, Nicole Cofer, Jim Douglas, Jennifer Dowdy Gordon, Ashlee Hunter, Matthew Minney, Adam Petry, Zoe Shavers and Brittany Ranson Stonestreet.

Stephanie Abraham, wife of Justice Chief of Staff Brian Abraham, is the obvious frontrunner.

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.

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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.