Connect with us

News & Issues

Gregory’s Web – October 8, 2023

Published

on

We briefly touched last week on the untimely passing of Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit. 

Joanna Tabit

As mentioned then, Tabit had been fighting a serious illness for several months. That valiant battle ended when she succumbed to the disease as September drew to a close.

Hundreds of sympathetic messages came with her passing. Many hailed her as a champion for compassion, justice and the principles she believed in.

In my opinion, Tabit clearly deserved all the accolades sent her way.

Her political philosophy (regardless of the judiciary allegedly being non-partisan in West Virginia) was decidedly liberal, according to courthouse observers.

She ran twice unsuccessfully for a seat on the Supreme Court. Both times she was targeted by conservative, right wing partisans for defeat.

Thus, many of the words of support and sympathy came from hardcore Democrats.

Nevertheless, I join with the likes of State Democrat Chair and Kanawha County Delegate Mike Pushkin, former Charleston City Councilman Andy Richardson, Kanawha Chief Judge Tera Salango and hundreds of others in paying tribute to an honorable and compassionate jurist.

Folks stood in line for more than an hour to pay tribute to Tabit in South Charleston on the eve of her funeral services. The following day at Charleston’s Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, there was not room for all the mourners.

Advertisement

I base much of my praise for Tabit on a minor case she presided over some years ago.

The incident in which an 80-year-old litigant was involved would not have ordinarily sparked my interest. He had been involved in a dispute that eventually led to his appearing before Judge Tabit to testify.

This octogenarian was a long-time friend of mine. As a personal favor, he asked me to attend the hearing with him.

So I sat in the gallery when his case was called.

Judge Tabit quickly made it apparent that she understood the discomfort of my old friend appearing in court.

She spoke quietly, reassuring him that the hearing was a step in the judicial process. She told him to be calm and not be overwhelmed by his circumstances.

As he struggled with his obvious emotions and some loss of hearing, she finally told him she would like to leave the bench and come sit across from him at the witness table. He readily agreed.

In doing that, my friend was clearly relieved and felt much more comfortable. It was apparent from her words and demeanor that the judge intended to have a simple conversation with the man.

Advertisement

As she sat across from him to hear his version of what happened to bring him to her court, it was more like a child listening to her elderly grandfather than a judge to a party in a lawsuit.

My friend was clearly relieved and much less stressed by the atmosphere he found himself in. Judge Tabit was responsible for that.

The judge allowed him to tell his story of the incident that led him to her courtroom.

She was extremely patient in listening to his vivid description of what happened.

On the other hand, I was forever impressed by her inherent ability to bring a sense of calm to my emotionally anxious friend. 

She quickly recognized that he was not accustomed to appearing in courtrooms and worked to reassure him.

Those who have praised Tabit’s sense of compassion and justice are accurate in their description of her. 

She could have stayed in her lofty bench position.

Advertisement

She could have questioned my friend with a high level of legal jargon. 

Instead, she understood his stress level and responded as the decent human being she was.

As I said last week, her family and friends have my sincere condolences. The likes of Joanna Tabit seldom pass our way.

May she Rest in Peace.


The October 31 retirement of Cabell County Circuit Judge Christopher Chiles and the death of Tabit means the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission and Governor Jim Justice will once again be charged with filling at least two more court vacancies.

Interestingly, a name I mentioned here last week as a potential replacement for Chiles quickly removed himself from consideration.

Chad Lovejoy

Former Democrat House of Delegates member Chad Lovejoy of Huntington noted that he has already pre-filed for a position on the Cabell, Sixth Circuit bench. He will make an excellent judge, as I said last time.

In making his announcement, Lovejoy explained that he had gone to the Cabell circuit judges ten months ago to learn of their plans. When Lovejoy discovered that Judge Al Ferguson did not intend to seek re-election, he announced that he would seek that position in 2024.

Lovejoy essentially summed things up by saying he had made commitments to folks like his law partners that he would not be a judge before January 2025. He has also been out campaigning for the seat to be vacated by Judge Ferguson.

Advertisement

He, therefore, said he would “stay the course” and remain a 2024 candidate for the Furguson position. He will not alter plans and commitments to seek appointment to Chiles’ seat, he said.

From a strictly political standpoint, I would have advised Lovejoy to go after the appointment. 

The power of being an incumbent judge would be helpful next year if for no other reason than increasing his name recognition.

Voters are sure to hear and read the name of the newly-appointed judge many times during the next seven months. Lovejoy likely could not afford to buy all the publicity that the new judge will get for free.

Still, one must admire Lovejoy for being what he’s always been: straightforward and honest. There’s something to be said for a man who turns aside what may benefit him personally in order to keep his word to others.

So, he eliminated possible political gain and did not accept that “a judgeship in hand is worth two in the bush.”

In all likelihood, his law partners are relieved that he’ll be around at least another year clearing out current cases and helping them face new client challenges.

All in all, I remain impressed by Lovejoy’s devotion to doing the right thing. After all, isn’t that what we want in a judge?

Advertisement

As for the Kanawha, Eighth Circuit Judge Tabit vacancy, I would expect Ashley Deem to be the leading contender if she seeks it.

Ashley Deem

While political affiliation is not considered in judicial vacancies (wink, wink), Deem has the Republican credentials to win the slot. 

She’s a former attorney for Supreme Court Chief Justice Beth Walker and former Finance Director for David McKinley for Congress. 

She also served as Statewide Grassroots Manager for Betty Ireland, former GOP Secretary of State.

In addition, she has considerable legal experience and was already a pre-filer for 2024 as well. 

Actually, she pre-filed for Division Six of the Eighth Circuit, which might have placed her against incumbent Judge Jennifer Bailey. Now, it will be no problem for her to run in the division she’s appointed to if Justice selects her.

As I’ve pointed out before, pre-filing does not obligate a candidate to later file for the position he or she lists in pre-filing.

In fact, many people pre-file and eventually never run for any office. 

The real reason for pre-filing is that it makes a candidate eligible to legally raise and spend campaign funds. It also earns them a bit of pre-candidacy publicity.

Advertisement

Although political philosophy enters less into decisions at the circuit court level, the appointment of Deem would definitely push the Kanawha circuit to the right in terms of philosophy.


Former Charleston Municipal Judge Anne Charnock would be an excellent choice for the vacant Kanawha position as well.

A scion of one of the finest Charleston public service families, she sat in the Judge’s chair long held by her father, the late John Charnock, Jr.

No better man ever lived than Judge John Charnock. His daughter would make an excellent circuit judge.

* * * * * *

Incumbent Mingo County Commissioner Diann Hannah has pre-filed for 2024 re-election, according to County Clerk Yogi Croaff. Hannah is a Republican.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Hannah is one of the brightest, hardest-working public officials around. She is also as honest and transparent as they come. 

Hannah deserves another term for an even better Mingo County.

Advertisement

Bethany Goad-Cisco of the County Clerk’s office is running as a Republican for Mingo Assessor. She came close to defeating Croaff for Clerk in 2022. 

She’s another of the friendly faces at the Mingo courthouse who is always helpful to those who stop by.

The incumbent Assessor, Maggie Hager, was appointed when longtime Assessor Ramona Mahon retired in May. Hager has not announced her intentions as of yet.

Brock Mounts, who barely lost in 2020 to incumbent Prosecutor Duke Jewell is running for that position again. Mounts is a Republican. No word yet on whether Jewell will seek another term.

Braydan Goff, a 2023 Tug Valley High School graduate, is running for the Mingo Board of Education.

Despite his youth, I’ve heard great things about this young man.

Some speculation in Williamson has centered on whether incumbent Family Court Judge Sabrina Deskins will go for another term or seek to become a Circuit Judge in the newly-aligned district.

She’s another example of excellence in Mingo, where things have definitely improved from the sordid past.

Advertisement

I would cast an easy vote for Deskins for whichever post she seeks.


There’s great improvement at the Second Avenue courthouse over the days when Judge Michael Thornsbury ruled with an iron fist  … but then there’s Republican County Commissioner Thomas Taylor.

Enough said.


Marshall County Republican Delegate Charlie Reynolds revealed on social media that he had submitted a resignation letter to House Speaker Roger Hanshaw late Friday.

Charlie Reynolds

In the letter, Reynolds said he has decided to “take a different path” personally and professionally that will require his full attention.

He was a major proponent of bringing the somewhat controversial Form Energy plant to Weirton.

His resignation will set in motion the steps required for Justice to name a successor. The replacement is sure to be a Form Energy supporter as well.


Kanawha County’s Republican State Senator Eric Nelson has confirmed what we knew weeks ago; he’s running for re-election.

Eric Nelson

Saying he’s focused on the economy and job creation, Nelson will be a huge favorite to return for another term.

He’s particularly proud of his role in the recent personal income tax cut.

Advertisement

The Charleston businessman with financial expertise had toyed with the idea of running for statewide office.


The drumbeat goes on …. Although voters may never care, a political correspondent would be remiss not to mention the latest Governor Jim Justice debt narrative.

The end of the week brought word that U.S. Marshals have been dispatched by court order to seize a helicopter belonging to Justice’s family-owned business, Bluestone Resources.

The repossession is tied to unpaid debts, according to court documents.

Since the original COVID pandemic effectively insulated Justice from all questions and doubts, the public has been inundated with Justice non-payment stories.

With this being nothing new, I don’t suppose it will alter his clear lead over Congressman Alex Mooney for the GOP United States Senate nomination in 2024.

One loyal reader smiled at the latest repossession, saying the Marshals may have trouble finding the helicopter to repossess it.


Veteran political pundits are puzzled over what they perceive as a lack of effort being put forth by Huntington businessman Chris Miller for next year’s Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Chris Miller

Miller was the earliest announced candidates for the job from which Justice is term limited.

In his late 2022 comments, Miller pledged an aggressive campaign all during 2023 leading up to the May 2024 primary.

Advertisement

While close advisors say Miller is active on the GOP dinner and reception circuit, average voters have seen and heard little from the auto dealer to separate him from the pack of contenders.

Although well known in the Huntington and Charleston markets, many thought Miller would be working with some of the $3 million he’s raised to increase his statewide name recognition.

Thus far, there’s not much of that visible to observers.

If Miller hopes to overtake the leading candidate, Moore Capito, it seems to me it’s time to launch the aggressive campaign he promised nearly a year ago.


Speaking of Chris Miller, I hear that his mother, Congresswoman Carol Miller, was in the audience when Sheriff David Clarke spoke to the Dinner of the Decade, “Say No to Joe” event for Greenbrier County Republicans last week.

David Clarke

Clarke is the outspoken, far right wing former Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.

Although Clarke served as a Democrat in Wisconsin, his stated political positions place him in faraway right field.

Clarke is to the political right of most Republicans.

According to some in attendance, the ex-Sheriff was highly critical of the very Congress where Congresswoman Miller serves.

Advertisement

While Miller is surely accustomed to criticism, it seldom comes at GOP gatherings. 

Some were surprised she managed to calmly sit through the entire presentation.


My Gilmer County grandfather once told me, “if a man is worried that you might be trying to steal his money, hold on to your wallet because he’s after yours.”

That may be the best explanation of why some people accuse others of what they are trying to do themselves.

Now, Democrat President Joe Biden and his clique are attempting to convince the public that the re-election of Republican President Donald Trump would spell the end of democracy as we know it.

These political pros are the very ones attempting to eliminate free speech through courtroom antics such as the indictments of Trump.

Their weaponization of the Justice Department is designed to have a chilling effect on anyone who stands up for what he or she believes in.

A war on democracy is currently going on throughout the land, implemented by President Joe Biden.

Advertisement

President Trump actually brought us peace and prosperity and more freedom than we’d had since President Reagan.

How soon we forget.


Kanawha County’s 2024 Prosecutor race, already interesting, may be getting moreso. 

Morgan Switzer and Debra Rusnak have already announced as Republicans for the job being given up with Prosecutor Chuck Miller’s retirement next year.

As if that contest might not draw tons of interest, a former Kanawha State Senator is considering joining the field.

Former Democrat State Senator John Mitchell, Jr. has told friends he’s interested in running.

Mitchell served as a business-oriented, moderate Democrat in the Senate. He has continued his highly-successful law practice on Charleston’s West Side for years.

The two GOP ladies are already waging aggressive campaigns.

Advertisement

The basic theory for any Democrat in Kanawha is that the county has still not turned as overwhelmingly Republican as the rest of the state.

With Charleston itself being decidedly liberal, it takes near unanimity from the remainder of the county to elect Republicans.

Assuming the GOP primary becomes as spirited as a Prosecutor race can, there could be a significant number of Republican voters who refuse to back their nominee.

In other words, if Republicans are divided enough in the primary, the Democrat could win in November.

Mitchell, of course, will have to hope there’s no divisive Democrat primary.

Current Prosecuting Attorney Miller is openly backing his assistant, Rusnak. Switzer has widespread support as well and seems to be appearing at every picnic, parade and public event in the county.

The same travel itinerary may be used by Rusnak, the Herbert Hoover High School graduate. Recently, she put in a full day of appearances up Elk River.

This was already a race to watch. It may get even better.

Advertisement

Also look for coverage of campaign finance reports as the deadline is this Wednesday. Our polling is wrapping up and will be released on 10/16. And you can also catch up on the latest political information this Friday at 8am as I join the team on WRNR in Martinsburg.

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

Author

  • 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.