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Gregory’s Web – September 17, 2023

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Ron Gregory political columnist
Joe Manchin

According to The Washington Post, West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin has gone so far in plotting his political future as to meet with former President Bill Clinton.

The Post said the Senator, his wife Gayle, and daughter Heather Bresch spent the Labor Day weekend in the Hamptons discussing what Manchin should do politically in 2024.

Bill Clinton

An anonymous source told The Post that the Senator has three options. We’ve already discussed them all here.

Amazingly enough, the Manchin family apparently had numerous meetings that weekend, all were supposed to be private, and only two “anonymous sources” spilled the beans to the Washington paper.

If there had been “secret” White House sessions, every detail would have been leaked before the sunset.

At the beginning, let’s consider the options.

First, Manchin could run for re-election in 2024, the sources said. Second, he could run as an independent for President on the No Labels ticket. Third, he could simply call it quits and retire from politics altogether.

The third option enhances the intriguing possibility raised by some that Manchin might succeed Elwood G. Gee as President of West Virginia University when Gee retires in 2025. Maybe sooner if the WVWho Faculty Senate has its way.

One can assume that the WVU presidency is non-political although you and I know better. Wink; wink.

We were born in the morning but not this morning, as Pa used to say.

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(Which reminds me that a few readers ask why I never do a “Pa and Ma” satirical column like my late mentor, Jim Comstock, and I used to do in our “West Virginia Hillbilly” days. Look for one before the 2024 election).

Let’s be truthful here. Can anyone imagine Joe Manchin just retiring and doing nothing meaningful? I surely cannot.

The Post reported that one Manchin family meeting was a private sit-down with Clinton.

For all his shortcomings, the ex-president is widely recognized as one of the shrewdest politicians around.

The group apparently discussed Manchin’s three options with Clinton, the sources said.

In addition, the insiders told the paper that Manchin is likely to leave the Democrat party if he chooses to run for either office next year.

Democrat donors who met with the Manchins “strongly urged” him to run for re-election, the sources said. 

Nationally, Republicans are focused on Manchin’s Senate seat as a key to them taking over Congress in January 2025.

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Jim Justice

To that end, some national Republicans are backing current Governor Jim Justice for Senate. Others support fringe right-wing Congressman Alex Mooney, who has also announced his candidacy for the spot.

Mooney is a bit to the right of my late friend, Elmer Fike of Nitro fame.

Alex Mooney

Manchin told those he met with that he thinks he can be re-elected, but only as an independent.

While the Senator has quietly spoken to supporters about becoming an independent, the Post’s sources said he was “more adamant than he has been in public about his need to run as an independent to win.”

The sources said his daughter “is strongly encouraging her father to run for President with the backing of No Labels, a bipartisan group recruiting a Democrat and a Republican to run on a 2024 third-party ticket.

“Manchin has long supported No Labels, once serving as an honorary co-chair of the group and headlining a July event sponsored by the group in New Hampshire,” The Post pointed out.

It also noted that No Labels organizers say they want to provide American voters with a real option next year.

“And the option is, can you move the political parties off their respective sides? They’ve gone too far right, too far left,” Manchin said in his speech to the group.

He did add, “I’m not running for President tonight.”

Manchin requested the meeting with Clinton after hearing that the former Commander in Chief would be in the Hamptons at the same time he was.

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The paper noted that “White House officials had asked Clinton to call Manchin when he was debating whether to support important pieces of legislation earlier in Biden’s presidency.”

That was much to the chagrin of West Virginia voters, I might add.

Clinton and Manchin declined to comment on their meeting.

As we all know, Manchin is a former Secretary of State and Governor who has served in the Senate since 2010. He and his family are one of this state’s political dynasties.

He won his last election over Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey by just three percent in 2018, however.

That came shortly after Manchin escorted the wildly unpopular 2016 Democrat Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton through the coal fields.

Manchin is the lone Democrat in the state’s Congressional delegation. He serves with Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito.

The state’s two House representatives – Carol Miller and Alex Mooney – are both Republicans.

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Former Republican President Donald Trump won the state by nearly 40 points in 2020 and has more than 70% approval in recent polls. Many politicos believe candidates can only win in West Virginia with an “R” by their names.

That has caused more than one public official to “discover” his or her Republican leanings as suddenly as Justice forgot his pledge to live in the Governor’s Mansion.

By the way, Manchin has said he is not considering running for Governor again.

He said in an August radio interview, “I’m thinking seriously about what’s best for me; I have to have peace of mind, basically. I’ve been thinking about that for quite some time.”

The Post observed, “Democrats are optimistic Manchin will run for re-election in West Virginia, and even if he chooses to run as an independent, most expect the party will back his campaign.”

It added, “Democrats acknowledge that if Manchin does not run for re-election, a Republican is almost certainly going to win the Senate seat, and in the last Congress, Manchin voted with the president nearly 88 percent of the time.”

If Democrats don’t support Manchin’s re-election, the fact is they have no viable alternative to the GOP contender whether it’s Justice or Mooney.

Randi Weingarten

The Post quoted American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, “I believe he (Manchin) has as good a chance as anyone to win re-election as senator in West Virginia. He has been as good a senator as anyone in West Virginia. He also has a huge role in the United States in the position that he is in. His influence led to the final passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. So I think that the role he plays in the Senate gives him tremendous clout for his state and for the U.S.”

Weingarten speculated that the Senator is not “going to put himself in the position that would in any way hurt Joe Biden’s prospects for re-election.”

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I wouldn’t bet the farm on that if I was Weingarten.


West Virginia Republicans have a rendezvous with calamity at some disputed barricade.

As surely as the author Alan Seeger wrote of the ultimate worldly conclusion in his oft-quoted poem, state Republicans appear intent on losing the majority status they worked more than 80 years to obtain.

From Greenbrier to Summers and Marshall counties, the GOP majorities simply cannot seem to abide by each other.

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” George Orwell wrote in “Animal Farm,” where all the pigs ended up looking the same.

There are lessons to be learned from these writers. While I am not calling anyone absolutely corrupt or a pig, I am indicating that my fear that the GOP cannot handle success is already starting to appear accurate.

County and State Republican Executive Committees can’t get along now that West Virginia is a solidly red state. Republican Clubs and Republican Women are more sources of friction than party support.

A wide tent with divergent viewpoints can be good for a political party. Let’s hope Republicans can learn to battle in off-seasons and primaries while uniting at general election time.

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Democrats proved good at November unity for nearly a century. Now it’s up to the GOP to prove worthy of their majority status.

Frankly, some spirited intraparty turmoil can even be helpful.

We’ll be watching to see which way the GOP turns.


Both my 2020 gubernatorial choices are making news as we speak.

Michael Folk

My ’20 Republican choice for Governor, Michael Folk, announced on The Tom Roten Morning Show that he will, indeed, challenge Senate President Craig Blair for that Eastern Panhandle Senate seat Blair sits in.

Folk will be a tough opponent for the veteran Blair.

Then my general election Governor choice four years ago, Erika Klie Kolenich, declared her Libertarian candidacy for that high office in 2024.

Erika Kolenich

It’s a safe bet I’ll agree more with Kolenich than the two major party choices. She’s bright and resourceful. She would make a great Governor.


On the subject of GOP unity or lack thereof, as last week ended Governor Jim Justice ignored the West Virginia Federation of Republican Women with his legislative appointment.

The Republican Delegate District Executive Committee dutifully provided three names to Justice for possible appointment to replace former Delegate Mike Honaker. The ex-Greenbrier County Delegate resigned to be chief of Homeland Security.

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Two ladies were nominated for the spot but Justice chose Jeff Campbell, a former Delegate, instead.

Ben Anderson, Greenbrier County GOP Chair who is known for being diplomatic and reserved plainly said that the WVFRW President Jeani Hawkins and Greenbrier Chair Denise Morrisey were “flat-out liars” when describing Campbell in their letter to the Governor.

Ben Anderson

It turns out that if you take a dash of Melody Potter-era GOP infighting and mix it with a heaping spoonful of Morrisey-based New Jersey politics you have the recipe for disaster.  The West Virginia Federation of Republican Women (WVFRW) has certainly learned the bitter taste of this recipe.  

Dr. Jeani Hawkins

We’ve reported how the WFRW tried to influence the governor with what turned out to be false information in a recent delegate appointment.   Current President Jeani Hawkins issued a note in response admitting the unprecedented move was a result of a request by Denise Morrisey’s Greenbrier Women’s group.   But that was just the beginning of problems that started coming to light.  

Pam Krushansky

The WVFRW enjoys a seat on the state GOP executive committee, one we’re told they will likely now lose.  Sources say the loss of this privileged position comes after Hawkins subverted the GOP process in addition to an earlier incident where AG employee and WVFRW Treasurer Pam Krushansky was caught campaigning against bylaws rule changes at the spring GOP meeting – from a membership drive table provided by the state GOP.  

Additionally, several members have come forward with a laundry list of bylaw violations that have occurred since Hawkins took over late last year.  Those violations include appointing Patrick Morrisey’s wife to the board of directors without the required election.  

Denise Henry Morrisey

The actions of Hawkins and Morrisey have now opened the organization to investigations by outside agencies in the Secretary of State and Ethics Commission.  

Some of the other WVFRW officers demanded a special meeting calling for the resignation of Hawkins, Krushansky, and Morrisey.  In a page from the Melody Potter playbook, the trio has attempted to slow-walk the meeting by misrepresenting bylaws yet again.  Fortunately, that didn’t work.  After several members consulted with an attorney a special meeting will in fact be held by Zoom Thursday to remove the three ladies from their positions. 

The WVFRW work isn’t often reported.  It is usually quite benign.  The organization however has played a vital role in party politics.  Through community service projects they have historically kept the party in a positive public relations light and served as the bedrock of party unity while recruiting those who log thousands of hours for Republican candidates In general elections.   The organization has seen substantial growth and activity over the last few years.  

One of the longest-serving WVFRW board members remarked how utterly amazing the path of distraction has been under the leadership of Hawkins, Krushansky, and Morrisey.  She noted the hard work that had occurred to secure the seat on the GOP and to grow membership.   

“I hope our ladies can get past the excuses that this is about personalities and personal attacks and see it for what it really is – violations of our bylaws, improper use of our goodwill, and weaponizing of our membership for political gain.  It just isn’t who we are.”  

In addition to the internal struggles, the group’s call for resignations may be the only defense to the forthcoming investigations.  Without the call and vote for resignations, the organization could be seen as condoning and endorsing the actions of these few.  

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Most political leaders would step down for the good of the party and not force a vote that could further divide Republicans across the state.  It remains unseen if Hawkins, Krushansky, and Morrisey will prioritize party unity over personal gain.  

We will keep you updated throughout the week. 


Then there are the Summers County Republicans. Here, I sure hope they take these comments as constructive as intended. I admire their spunk and routinely read their social media posts.

But in a lengthy epistle last week, they broke one of what should be a cardinal rule for party executive committees. It is best not to endorse candidates in primaries when you’re supposed to be boosting the entire ticket.

Although Greenbrier Republicans acknowledged that, they appeared to make some endorsements anyway.

Here’s what this group of well-meaning party officials did.

After posting on social media how they wish to help “all” GOP candidates get the word out, the Summers group apparently noted who they favor in some races.

“The following is a list of GOP primary candidates that will be on our ballots,” they wrote.

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Bizarrely, they then list Patrick Morrisey, Mac Warner, Chris Miller, and Rashida Yost as Governor candidates.

That’s all!

Inexplicably missing is the acknowledged favorite in the race, Kanawha County Delegate Moore Capito, and the first candidate to pre-file, Terri Bradshaw.

Moore Capito

Then they list Senate candidates Justice and Mooney. After Mooney’s name is a hyphen before this line: “Endorsed by Summers County Republican Executive Committee”

No punctuation mark appears before they simply list: “US House, District 1 Carol Miller

Derrick Evans- Endorsed by Summers County Republican Executive Committee.”

They’re going against their own advice and awkwardly endorsing somebody. The question is who?

Is it Mooney? Is it Evans? Who is being endorsed?

The best thing they can do now is stop endorsing candidates in the primary.

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The puzzle grows as they list only two of the slew running for Secretary of State: Chris Pritt and Ken Reed. Where’s pre-filed Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood for example?

They then list some but not all of the candidates for other offices.

They incredibly end things up by declaring that the committee “trusts its voters to nominate  in the primary election and does not support endorsements from county committees.”

Huh?

The sermon on the board out front is correct. It’s the parishioners inside that’s the problem.


Stephanie Abraham

Newly-appointed Kanawha County Circuit Judge Stephanie Abraham has pre-filed for 2024.

Justice appointed her at lightning speed to replace retiring Judge Louis “Duke” Bloom.


Jeff Campbell

Justice made much of swearing new Greenbrier Delegate Jeff Campbell into office Friday.

The press release boasted that Campbell was likely the first representative sworn in while the chamber was being renovated.

“Campbell signed the oath on a stack of plywood surrounded by scaffolding,” the release trumpeted.

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The reason for this untidy ceremony was that the state constitution says a member must be sworn in where the body meets, Justice explained.

There was no explanation as to how he could be a stickler for that requirement while ignoring the constitutional mandate for the Governor to live in Charleston city limits, however. 


Elgine McArdle

State Republican Chair Elgine McArdle said it best concerning primary infighting.

“The WVGOP trusts its voters to nominate candidates in the primary election and does not support endorsements from county committees before then.”

Nicely done, Madam Chair.

Author

  • 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.

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.