As the 2024 election draws rapidly closer, it is interesting to observe the twists and turns along the way.
It’s safe to say that even the most devoted West Virginia Democrats grudgingly concede that former Republican President Donald Trump will again carry the state by a wide margin next year.
Most even admit that the “Trump factor” will likely keep the Board of Public Works, now often referred to as “statewide executive officials,” all-Republican for another four years.
There’s little doubt both of the legislative houses will still be run by GOP supermajorities as well.
With such success as the Republicans have had in recent years, it might be expected that all would be harmonious in their camp.
As we’ve been chronicling here these past few weeks, however, dissension is the route many state Republicans have chosen to take on the Road to Prosperity (where have I heard that term before?).
Actually, while having four “unity” events this autumn, the state GOP is less unified than ever. The West Virginia Republican Executive Committee has coordinated these four get-togethers.
Nevertheless, it takes more from a State Chair such as Elgine McArdle than mere words to promote peace and goodwill.
A little less “Big I; Little You” philosophy would serve her and the party well.
In Raleigh County, where Republicans were divided even before they commanded an overwhelming majority, it seems Judge Robert Burnside, Jr. is hanging up his judicial robes next year. Burnside became a Circuit Judge in 1988.
In September, GOP Delegate Brandon Steele announced his intention to seek election as one of Raleigh’s four circuit judges.
Most assumed Steele would be running to replace Burnside.
When Steele announced his candidacy, he told WVVA-TV6 that he felt it was “time to come home” from the Legislature.
He said he planned to keep the “promise” he made to Raleigh County voters that he would limit his service in the Legislature to three terms.
Steele has subsequently told friends he will not file for judge, after all.
He will, instead, seek re-election to his House seat.
There is a strong possibility that Steele could become Chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee if he’s re-elected.
Steele is a hard-working Beckley attorney whose conservative legislative credentials are beyond dispute.
He is widely respected in House leadership and is the mover and shaker behind the LootPress news site.
It’s beyond argument that losing him in the House would be a severe blow to GOP leadership and to the State as a whole.
I’m glad he changed his mind.
Former Kanawha County Commissioner David Hardy is throwing his hat in the ring for one of the eight Kanawha Circuit Judge positions to be filled in 2024.
Hardy, 65, is currently Revenue Secretary in the Justice administration. He’s also a former Charleston City Councilman.
In filing his pre-candidacy papers last week, Hardy indicated he will be vying for the seat formerly held by the late Judge Joanna Tabit.
“I just crossed 40 years in the legal profession,” he told reporters. “After giving it much thought and consideration, I’ve decided it’s probably the time in my life to serve in the judicial branch.”
Hardy, whose prior elected service was as a Democrat, said he plans to apply for the interim appointment to replace Tabit, as well as running next year.
Judges in West Virginia are now chosen on a non-partisan basis, although Hardy had previously re-registered as a Republican.
The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission will interview potential appointees before recommending possible replacements to the Governor.
Some think Hardy has the inside track for the appointment since he already works for Justice. Others continue to believe Ashley Deem, an activist Republican who has already pre-filed for a different Kanawha Circuit Judge position, may apply and be Justice’s pick to replace Tabit through the 2024 election.
Hardy said he looks forward to the challenges being a Circuit Judge will bring.
He served two terms on City Council before being elected to the Kanawha Commission four times.
In tribute to his longevity, Hardy is the only original Justice cabinet member still on the job.
He’ll be difficult to beat when judges are elected next May.
I’ve often written about journalists and others who claim to do their jobs in an “unbiased” manner.
In my humble but correct opinion, those reporters are trying to fool themselves and the public with that nonsense.
Journalists are people and people have feelings and emotions that lead to judgment in their interactions with others. A reporter, just like everyone else, simply likes some people more than others.
Accepting the assertion that reporters treat everyone equally betrays any explanation for variety or choice.
If God did, in fact, “create all men equal,” all men would find all women equally appealing. We’d all cheer for the same football team. Everyone would only love red velvet cake.
It just doesn’t add up.
I will take credit for always trying to do what I think most sincere, honest reporters aspire to do.
In that, I try to present opposing points of view fairly.
Àlthough even some journalists don’t understand it, there is a marked difference between opinion columns and straight news stories.
Opinion pieces express the author’s point of view. Straight news stories attempt to present all sides of an issue, verified by facts.
If a group of citizens gathers to oppose the actions of their Congressman, my news story should give their statements about the official and his or her rebuttal.
In my column, I can just coldly say, “Congressman John Doe is a lying weasel.” I am under no obligation to let that lying weasel respond.
My point, dear reader, is that the reporter who claims to be unbiased has already proven, by that claim, that he or she can’t be trusted.
As first reported here a few weeks ago, Democrat former Kanawha County State Senator John Mitchell, Jr. is a 2024 candidate for Kanawha Prosecuting Attorney.
Mitchell pre-filed last week, joining two Republicans who had already done so.
Current Assistant Prosecutor Debra Ruznak and attorney Morgan Switzer are the two GOP candidates.
This is one courthouse race where the Democrat may actually be elected. Incumbent Prosecutor Chuck Miller is retiring.
Ruznak and Switzer are already running hard.
Enough division by those two in the GOP camp could easily lead to a Mitchell victory.
When I first observed the apparent itinerary for transporting the Capitol Christmas Tree from Huntington to Washington, D.C., I commented that sled dogs could have done it faster.
It appeared that it will take 13 days to get from Cabell County to Washington. While that’s actually true, it turns out there’s a logical explanation for the delay.
Everything made more sense when I learned additional information, thanks to Senator Joe Manchin’s ever-efficient media staff.
Huntington, it turns out, is simply the first stop on a celebratory statewide tour. It commemorates the first time in nearly 50 years that West Virginia has been chosen to provide the nation’s tree.
The 63-foot pine actually came from the Monongahela National Forest near Elkins.
Werner Enterprises is, in fact, carrying the tree by truck. They were chosen at the recommendation of Kenworth Truck
Company and based on industry reputation, according to Bruce Ward.
Ward is president of Choose Outdoors, the non-profit partner assisting the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service in coordinating the annual initiative.
Special events are planned in communities throughout the state before the tree is
delivered to Washington, D.C. Werner will also deliver thousands of handmade ornaments made by West Virginians along with smaller trees for military families stationed at
Joint Base Andrews. These are being donated by presenting sponsor, 84 Lumber Company.
Werner is an asset-based logistics provider and the sixth largest truckload carrier in the United
States. Beginning with a single truck purchased by founder Clarence L. (CL) Werner in 1956,
the company today “delivers supply chain solutions to the global marketplace
responsibly and safely,” according to their website.
They operate nearly 8,300 tractors and 30,000 trailers, with the help of more than 14,000 associates.
So, it seems, the whole project is on the up-and-up and a good thing. Taxpayers, as I first suspected, are not being stuck with the price tag.
Celebrations are planned in Huntington, Elkins, Marlinton, Summerville, Beckley, Charleston, Wheeling, Morgantown, Upper Tract, Davis, Romney and Harpers Ferry.
Check Manchin’s website for the schedule. If it takes another half-century to get the next tree from West Virginia, we may not get another opportunity to share in the recognition.
Last week, Governor Justice appointed Republican Erica J. Moore of Spencer to the House of Delegates seat recently vacated by Riley Keaton.
The Fifteenth District, which she now serves, includes Roane and Wirt counties.
The Governor’s office said she is a West Virginia University computer science graduate. She’s currently a utility clerk for the City of Spencer.
Not confirmed is whether rumors are true that someone in Moore’s family has performed veterinary services for Justice’s beloved, symbolic pet, BabyDog.
That would surely qualify her to be appointed.
The closest anyone at the capitol would come to addressing the question was when a longtime capitol source told me, “her brother-in-law is the Dean of The Ohio State School of Veterinary Medicine.”
More investigation may be required.
Where is Hercule Poirot when you need him?
While most of my staunch Republican readers disagree, I am still wary of the long-term financial outlook for the Mountain State.
Some former elected officials in our southern coalfield counties are criticized for spending like there was no tomorrow when the coal industry was booming.
Now, with diminished coal production, critics say county officials should not have established budgets balanced solely on the back of severance tax revenues.
My concern now is that the state’s financial prosperity, fueled in part by COVID-related revenue from the federal government, cannot be sustained.
I’ve been cornered several times in capitol corridors by Justice critics who insist the finances will go belly-up about the time the Governor is leaving Lewisburg for his new Senate seat in Washington.
So, are October lower severance collections a harbinger of things to come? Or is one month just a blip on the radar screen?
I’ve never been a budget expert, so I don’t know the answer.
The Governor did not seem distraught in announcing the figures. On the other hand, he was not rejoicing either.
He did point out, on a positive note, that October’s revenue still left the state ahead of fiscal year-to-date projections by 15.5%.
Most critics say this administration tends to under-estimate projected income so it can ballyhoo each overage that comes.
The alarming stat showed that severance taxes were down dramatically, putting overall revenue for this fiscal year compared to last at 10% lower.
If the trend continues, things could get dicey.
It may be close to the time when spending priorities should be reconsidered.
Some readers regularly tell me how much they enjoy our occasional look at nostalgic politics.
Along those lines, I was going through some files last week when I was reminded of my great friend, the late, former Wheeling State Senator Judith Herndon.
An outstanding attorney in her own right and daughter of famed Ohio County lawyer Richard G. Herndon, Judy Herndon was a pioneer female West Virginia politician.
Her life was cut off much too short in 1980 when she passed away at 39.
Here’s what was written by fellow 65th Legislature colleagues about her at the time of her passing:
“Direct and articulate, respected and admired, controversial and outspoken, bright and able, courageous and fearless.”
Meanwhile, when inducted into the Wheeling Hall of Fame posthumously, they published the following commentary:
“This was no mundane politician. In her four years as a member of the House of Delegates from Ohio County and six as a Senator from the First Senatorial District, she achieved recognition for outstanding service to her state and her district. She was a leader for tax reform, sunset legislation, sexual assault legislation and in attempts to curb the powers of bureaucratic government agencies.”
She was appointed to the House in June 1970 by then-Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr.
She ran for the House in her own right in the fall of that year and was re-elected in 1972.
On July 3, 1974, she was appointed by Governor Moore to the State Senate. She ran for re-election in 1978. She never lost an election despite being a member of the minority party.
Many thought she was destined to be West Virginia’s first woman Governor.
In her Hall tribute, it was noted, however, that “her destiny of service was not higher office. It was to inspire, by her example of courageous integrity, the lives of many.
“The example she set was a model of rectitude in public service. When she felt strongly about an issue, there was no fear in her. No pressure group, whether it was management, labor, public employees, public figures or political organizations could intimidate her. “Notwithstanding Senator Herndon’s strong will, she was a concerned, compassionate, warm and lovely lady.”
In a survey conducted in 1978 by The Charleston Gazette, she was rated as the most effective of state legislators.
She was all of that and more. Those who never had the chance to meet her missed out on a rare personality in West Virginia politics.
In the continuing saga of “which energy source will it be?” Democrat U.S. Senator Joe Manchin made an interesting announcement this week.
As Chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he said that ADL Ventures will be awarded a $500,000 prize through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) American-Made Energy Program for Innovation Clusters.
The award comes to develop The Deployment Engine, based in Charleston.
Partnering with regional entities, ADL Ventures “is creating a hard-tech, low-carbon construction focused accelerator working to revitalize the Appalachian region,” Manchin explained.
“EPIC awards cash prizes to regional incubator teams that submit the most creative and impactful plans to develop strong clusters, connections, and support for energy startups and entrepreneurs,” the Senator went on.
Even those of us who have not joined the Obama-Biden “War on Carbon Fuels” applaud most efforts to address future energy needs.
West Virginia is fortunate to always have Senator Manchin looking out on the home front.
Remember in my concern about biased reporters, if the January 6 rally in Washington, D.C. is continuously referred to as a “riot” or “insurrection,” the writer is clearly trying to convict President Trump without benefit of a trial.
Those same scribes refer to wild mobs burning and looting our cities as “peaceful demonstrators.”
Hats off to my old friend, Hollis Lewis of Charleston, who took the oath of office as our newest state Delegate last Friday.
The setting was in the House chamber, currently under renovation.
That caused House Director of Communications, Ann Ali, to wax poetic.
“Hollis Lewis of Charleston became the newest member of the House of Delegates November 3,” Ali wrote. Lewis recited “the oath of office in a stark House chamber with an echo that bounced across its bare cement floor, marble walls and clear plastic wraps.”
Ali, who always does a great job, perfectly captured the unique circumstances of the day.
Governor Justice recently appointed Lewis to the position previously held by Doug Skaff, who resigned to run for Secretary of State.
The “Straight Shooter” is firing verbal bullets again.
My friend, Tom Roten of Huntington radio fame, has made his way to LootPress in Beckley.
Just go to their website to find the latest Tom Roten Show podcast.
Here’s wishing good things for him in the days ahead.
And just what has our friendly, former Hooters girl, Republican Putnam County Delegate Kathie Hess-Crouse been up to lately?
Stay with wvstatewide.com for that answer and more.
Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185 or email@example.com