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Editorial

Gregory’s Web – August 20, 2023

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Ron Gregory political columnist

Is it a great thing or an unmitigated disaster?

Apparently, it depends on who your audience is.

Last week, I mentioned the one-year anniversary of the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act.” 

At that time, I pointed out that West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin would not be joining the Biden White House staff in an anniversary celebration of one of Biden’s rare legislative wins. 

Manchin provided the support that put the legislation over the top.

I pointed out that Manchin’s absence from the Biden celebration was his own choice, according to both the Senator and the White House.

This came even though Manchin worked hard on the bill and is credited with naming it.

It’s a name that Republicans scorned from the beginning, insisting it would not reduce inflation. 

Even though he named the law, Manchin has gone so far as to say that President Biden has not implemented it properly. He says he might actually vote to repeal it if that were to make it to the Senate floor.

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Still, it’s difficult to attack your own child – or bill in this case. So Manchin actually celebrated the anniversary without joining the Biden crew.

I do have to give Manchin credit, as usual. Despite protests from some that the law would “kill” West Virginia’s coal industry and generally imperil the fossil fuel producers, the Senator has never totally abandoned the bill. He touts the alternative energy millions the IRA has brought to the state.

It’s also true that his poll numbers have plunged, largely attributed to the IRA. Still, he remains steadfast.

Manchin does not do what I referred to in the beginning. He acknowledges support for the legislation no matter who he’s speaking with. He still maintains that the bill, properly implemented, is a boost for West Virginia.

On the other hand, as The Charleston Gazette-Mail’s Phil Kabler pointed out some time ago, Republican Governor Jim Justice is on both sides of the issue. The Republican Governor has mastered the art of being politically two-faced over the years.

Speaking to rock-ribbed, right-wing Republicans, Justice denounces the bill as a budget buster. He points out that it has not “cured” inflation despite the fact that rising prices have slowed considerably. 

He calls it one of the reasons for an increased debt ceiling.

However, when it comes to announcing an “economic development” project or cutting a ribbon for a new alternate fuel facility funded all or in part by the act, Justice smiles and says all is rosy.

He’s now traveling the state dispensing taxpayer checks and what sometimes sounds suspiciously like campaign rhetoric. 

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Justice has announced his intention to run for Manchin’s seat in 2024. His major announced opponent in the GOP primary is Congressman Alex Mooney.

One wonders, if Justice gets to the Senate in 2025, will he be for or against bills like this one?

Those who are benefitting from the act might want to find out exactly where Justice stands before casting their ballots.

As I said, they may find he’s for it and against it.


Nobody can accuse Justice’s U.S. Senate GOP primary opponent of double-talk on the bill either. Mooney has consistently been against it despite the millions it delivers to his district.

The Second District’s Mooney toes the ultra right wing line regardless. Unlike Justice, we at least know where he stands. 

For his part, Mooney refers to the IRA legislation as the “Tax and Spend Act.”


On the subject of His Excellency Governor Justice, he avoided comment last week about payroll concerns of the West Virginia National Guard troops deployed to the southern border in Texas.  

Despite his usual public relations ploy of publicly sending the troops off to curtail illegal migrants entering the country, he was a no-show when the issue of payment disparity arose.

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It’s not unusual for this administration to simply ignore public issues and questions. I suppose they assume the subject will just be forgotten.

Usually, that’s the case. Complacent reporters who prefer to be fed the tidbits of happy “news” spouted by the Governor and his minions are partly responsible for the free ride Justice gets.

Add in the drastic staff cuts made by many media outlets and you can see why Justice can get away with almost anything.

All of us oldsters remember when the two Charleston newspapers had five or six eager government reporters on staff. Those days are long gone.

An obvious example of Justice ignoring legalities and getting away with it is his residence issue.

Does anyone actually believe his word about living in the Governor’s Mansion during his second term? That was his promise to end a lawsuit to force him to live in the Mansion as the Constitution requires.

Is there any outcry that he’s not living in Charleston? Nope.

I will admit, though, that I thought more readers would be incensed when they learned that most of our state National Guardsmen deployed to Texas by Justice were being paid less than that state’s troops. 

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Many West Virginia soldiers are being paid around $3,000 a month. Their Texas brethren, by contrast, are getting $7,000.

To its credit, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph quickly did a thorough story describing the plight of the Guardsmen.

Wvstatewide.com received calls the same day the Daily Telegraph article appeared. These troops were saying they had been misled regarding their pay scale.

Some said they had “volunteered” for deployment thinking they would be paid the same as Texas Guardsmen.

Following up, I called the Governor’s press office only to be hurriedly told I should call back after Justice ended his press briefing for the day.

Then, I sent an email directly to them with my issues. One was that Guardsmen had told us that Justice promised he’d meet with them and now they said he won’t. I wanted to know if that 

was true. Three days later,  I’m waiting for an answer. While the Guard has responded, not a word from the statehouse.

Although this Governor in Absentia is barred from a third consecutive term, he says he’s running for Manchin’s seat in 2024. One would think he’d be a bit more responsive to soldiers he put in harm’s way.

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It turns out, according to the Guard, that they are paid differently when activated by the Governor. On a state call out by the Governor, they receive pay as set by State Code. That scale differs from one state to another.

If called out by the President for what’s deemed a national emergency, all are paid the same national rate.

Even though by week’s end, all officials seemed to agree that it is legally correct for WV Guardsmen to be paid less than their Texas counterparts, the whole uproar could have been curtailed if Justice had just met with the troops.

Whether he promised to meet or not, I call it a dereliction of duty on the Governor’s part not to respond to the troop concerns.

One press release after another came from the press office last week. Most detailed the signing of one or another of the 45 bills passed by the legislature’s recent special session. As usual, Justice had time for the cameras but apparently gave little thought to the WV Guardsmen risking their safety in the sweltering Texas heat.

As usual, he said all the appropriate things when they departed. Then he went back to business as usual while the soldiers suffered from low pay in the Lone Star state.

He does not deserve another term in any office. 


My old friend, Wesley Holden, is planning to run as an Independent in the First District Congressional race.

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That’s the District currently represented by Republican Carol Miller.

Holden is best known as the Director of Constituent Services for former Democrat U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller.

The First is also the District where political prisoner Derrick Evans is challenging Miller in the Republican primary.

Holden, then a Democrat, came close to beating former GOP Kanawha House of Delegates member Ron Walters in 2016.

Holden will get some votes and make the already-interesting race even more intriguing. He is highly intelligent and well-versed, particularly on environmental issues.

He is collecting signatures in his bid to run.

Holden told me he stopped by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s booth at the State Fair last week.

“I asked his reps about why Morrisey will not sue DuPont over the PFAs’ contamination like other neighboring states,” Holden said. “Sadly they knew nothing about PFAs.”

He went on, “Finally, one of them said he drives Morrisey around to events and will ask him about it. I sent the guy an email explaining what is what and asked for an explanation.”

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Maybe Denise Morrisey, the AG’s wife and public relations expert, will get Holden a well-polished answer.


Calling Justice “His Excellency” reminds me of what Manchin’s uncle, the late Secretary of State A. James Manchin, always called former Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr.

I once asked Governor Moore if Manchin called him “Your Excellency” in private as he always did publicly.

“Lord yes. Always,” the state’s greatest-ever Governor replied. 

“Once we pulled up to a gas station and he said, ‘Does Your Excellency need to use the restroom facilities?’” Moore chuckled.


Republican Roy Ramey, once again running for Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt’s job, makes an interesting point on the campaign trail.

He says U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show the state has 1,122 fewer farms now than it did when Leonhardt took office. That compares to a gain of ten while Democrat Walt Helmick held the job before the current Commissioner.

Leonhardt often talks about how agriculture is “growing” under his leadership. It doesn’t appear that way.


Last week’s comments about the appointment of a new Calhoun County Prosecutor apparently didn’t sit well with one county commissioner.

Commissioner Kevin Helmick’s wife fired an email off to the Calhoun Chronicle, after they ran what I wrote.

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According to Melissa West of the Chronicle, Mrs. Helmick wrote the editor and “told him our paper was a Republican piece of garbage.”

She went on to advise the editor  that they “needed to find reporters who can report the news without including their idiotic opinion.”

As with many people, the commissioner’s wife apparently does not know the difference between a column and a news article. 

By its very definition, a column – which this clearly is – is the author’s opinion as opposed to straight news articles.

At least, however, Calhoun Republicans now know what the Helmicks think of them.

I’m sure Commissioner Helmick won’t be expecting votes from “pieces of garbage” like them in his next election campaign.


Republican Tristan Leavitt has some impressive endorsements in his 53rd Delegate District bid.

That’s the Kanawha County district currently served by Chris Pritt, who has announced he will run for Secretary of State in the 2024 GOP primary.

Those listed as Leavitt supporters on his website include Republican Kanawha County Commissioner Lance Wheeler, former State Senator and Commerce Commissioner Ed Gaunch and JB Akers and Lance Wolfe, both former GOP candidates  for Mayor of Charleston.

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Leavitt is very conservative and appears to have the support of the West Virginia Center Right Coalition.

He recently appeared with his friends Ashley Switzer, JB Akers and Ron Hughes on Charleston’s Scoop Squad/Truth Pod.


Speaking of Scoop Squad/Truth Pod, that outlet crusaded for an investigation of Charleston’s former Police Chief Tyke Hunt.

They aired an interview with a woman who said Hunt went over the line in a relationship with her. The ex-chief is married.

The city administration disciplined Hunt for his indiscretion in 2022 but did not inform city council members or the public.

Although council voted recently not to have an independent investigation of the case, the podcast was relentless.

Switzer revealed that the podcast would be airing more inappropriate sexual relations stories involving the chief next week. On Friday, he announced his resignation as chief and plans for back surgery.

We’ll see if this ends the soap opera or if Truth Pod indeed produces more details.

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

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  • Staff Writer

    From the WV Statewide News Team. Articles depicting “Staff Writer” indicate the content was prepared by several members of the news team.

From the WV Statewide News Team. Articles depicting "Staff Writer" indicate the content was prepared by several members of the news team.