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Gregory’s Web – November 12, 2023



What can I say? For that “once in a blue moon,” I was wrong. I’ll admit it since there’s no way to hide it.

Regardless of the moon’s color, I’ve felt certain that West Virginia’s iconic Democrat United States Senator Joe Manchin would run for re-election in 2024.

Joe Manchin

I’ve held firmly to that belief for months now.

However, the man himself told us this past Thursday that he will not. He might run for President but not the Senate. Color me, as the old 7-Up bird Fresh-Up Freddie used to say, bewildered.

Although most readers told me weeks ago that I was wrong about Manchin, I held to my prediction.

When many used this simple logic: “Larry Puccio is committed to Justice. He wouldn’t be committed to Justice if Joe was running,” I ignored what was obvious to everybody else.

Now, we can watch the next year as Manchin slow walks President Joe Biden into retirement. Having Manchin on national ballots as a “No Labels” candidate or otherwise means former President Donald Trump can curse, cajole and brag on himself all the way back to the White House in January 2025.

It’s a sure thing. Turn out the lights, Joe and Kamala, the party’s really over now. 

In the months ahead, we’ll be watching Manchin perform for the nation. It will be a sad, lengthy farewell. 


In the end, a generation of West Virginia politicians is passing.

There are times when constructive criticism is helpful for all.

That is clearly true when one considers Practical Politics 101. A mind open to various new ideas is a wondrous thing indeed.

When two divided sides on an issue can compromise and reach a consensus, it usually works out well for all involved.

On the other hand, mean-spirited, hateful criticism seldom does anyone any good.

Evidence of the latter is clearly seen, again this week, among West Virginia Republicans.

With petty bickering at an all-time high in the GOP, it’s no wonder some newly-minted Republicans are asking themselves what they’ve gotten into by switching from Democrat.

Childish attacks on fellow party members have become the rule not the exception in the state GOP.


Most of the divisions caused by useless criticism are simply uncalled for.

Take, for example, a letter recently written by Putnam County Republican State Senator Eric Tarr. 

Few would fault Tarr for advocating for Senate leadership since he’s part of that group.

The Putnam Senator can also nominate Senate President Craig Blair for Sainthood if he wishes.

Why, though, does Tarr need to take a below-the-belt swipe at Governor Jim Justice and the GOP dominated House of Delegates while he’s praising Blair?

That makes no sense at all.

In his letter, apparently intended to motivate would-be donors to give to a Blair fundraiser last week, Tarr gets off to a reasonable start.

Eric Tarr

“West Virginians today and even more so our children that will follow us, are better off for having Craig Blair as Senate President during some of the most extraordinary and abhorrent times in American history,” Tarr writes.

Okay. So far we may not all agree with that assessment, but Tarr is free to lavish praise on his friend and colleague. No harm; no foul.


On the other hand, what follows is off-base, uncalled for and detrimental to the very causes Tarr claims to support.

Let’s give this some thought. That’s obviously more than Tarr or whoever approved this letter did.

Blair is a Republican; Tarr is a Republican; Justice is a Republican. The vast majority of those being solicited are Republicans.

With all of that being considered, what is one of the worst things one can do with this letter?

Right you are! We do not want to offend any Republicans. So we should be nice and uplifting with no negativity.

We especially want to avoid offending the elected head of our party and state government who is not involved with this fundraiser or Blair’s candidacy in any public way.

Apparently Tarr didn’t get the memo on playing nice. He doesn’t remember a common axiom. “If you can’t say something good about someone, say nothing at all.” Some parents still teach that to their children.

The Putnam Senator follows his words of adoration for Blair with this insult:


“With an absent and sickly governor, at times a very fractured House of Delegates, a bureaucracy reluctant to change, the West Virginia Senate has been a momentous force for achieving conservative policy under Craig Blair’s presidency.”

Aside from claiming Blair invented the internet a week before Al Gore did, Tarr’s rhetoric could hardly be more enthusiastic. 

Still, what’s the logic of attacking your party’s Governor on a personal level? Then Tarr follows up with a verbal haymaker (“fractured”) directed to the other House. It just so happens that the other House is also run by a Republican supermajority and GOP Speaker Roger Hanshaw.

The Speaker likely doesn’t appreciate reading that the House he presides over is detrimental to Republican principles, as Tarr proclaims.

The question is often asked in politics: “how low will you go?”

One will have to be on or below ground level to equal Tarr’s “sickly” comment about the Governor.

Despite seven years as Governor, I’d attest that Justice appears in better health now than when he was first elected.

On the other hand, even if the “sickly” comment is true, what earthly good comes from a same-party Senator saying it in a fundraising letter?


To be honest, Tarr almost described his own behavior. Where is his compassion?

In all honesty, his accusations are as “sickly” as they are “sick.”

Legislators such as Tarr somehow decide that voters elected them to be dictators of all things political. 

Tarr honestly believes that the voters of Putnam and the part of Cabell that comprise his district will be awaiting his wisdom as to who to vote for and support financially.

Here’s a dose of reality, Senator: they won’t be doing that.

Still, I hand it to whoever wrote the Tarr letter for hitting all the far right wing points later in the epistle.

Look at this: “(Blair and the Senate have)

made possible the improved protections of our constitutional freedoms, honoring the sanctity of life, the most parental freedom for education of your child in the nation, record GDP growth at second in the nation, record economic diversification, the largest tax cut in West Virginia history, record surpluses at 39+% …” and you get the point.


He stopped short of saying the Senate is in direct communication with the Almighty. But who needs God if you have Senators Blair and Tarr?

Thus, thanks to Blair and the Senate, all is right with the world.

So why were the childish attacks on the Governor and House of Delegates necessary? Simply put, they weren’t.

If all is well, thanks solely to Blair’s heroics and the State Senate, just say so. There’s no need for negativity.

“Never build yourself up by tearing someone else down” is an ancient motto to be respected here.

On the subject of Blair, my Eastern Panhandle sources say it’s shaping up to be quite a GOP primary for his Senate seat in 2024.

He’s already drawn two challengers. Former Delegate Michael Folk, has pre-filed and has $7,500 in funds, according to his latest financial report.

Political newcomer Thomas Willis reported a war chest of nearly $75,000 and has told supporters he’s prepared to match Blair, dollar for dollar.

Tom Willis

Experts will always say an incumbent is aided by multiple candidate races. The theory is that more than one opponent will “divide” votes against the incumbent. That could let the sitting candidate win with a plurality of 40% or less.

Speaking of finances, Blair’s treasure chest dwarf’s either opponent. At the end of September, he had more than $218,000 in the bank.

Folk, who I supported when he ran in the 2020 Governor primary, will be a tough competitor.

Many friends tell me Willis is a solid candidate. He has served 23 years in the West Virginia National Guard.

I’ve mentioned before that the last time a “military candidate” ran a full-throttle campaign for West Virginia Governor was 1996.

Jon McBride had even been an astronaut and his campaign staff at the time assured me he’d sweep every town in the state with an American Legion Hall.

Apparently there were not enough VFWs, etc. around since McBride lost in the Republican primary to former Governor Cecil Underwood, 44-33%. David McKinley, later a Congressman, finished third.

Underwood went on to narrowly defeat Democrat State Senator Charlotte Pritt in the general election.

I’ve tried to compare the McBride campaign to that of current gubernatorial candidate, Secretary of State Mac Warner. Like McBride, Warner’s military background is beyond reproach. McBride and Warner always give particular attention to veterans.


However, there are differences in the two campaigns. McBride ran into some particularly troublesome personal challenges during his run.

Unlike Warner, McBride was not an experienced politician with whom voters were familiar. He made several “rookie” mistakes.

I think it’s smart that Warner and supporters have emphasized his family’s deep military traditions. There may even be some McBride lessons that could be useful in the current race.

It may not win Warner the election but, then, it surely won’t hurt him.

I’m not even taking the space to recount the tribulations of Putnam County Republican Women.

Suffice it to say, we featured a story here last week about their disputed break up into two clubs and camps and the erroneous charges Crouse filed that were later disproven.

Kathie Hess Crouse

There’s little that could be added. Let’s hope former Hooters girl, now Delegate Kathie Hess-Crouse learned something from the experience and no longer believes she “is a delegate and can do whatever she wants”.

I doubt that she did.

The Eastern Panhandle, exercising its political strength, will be home to some other fascinating races in 2024.


With my heroine, Jefferson County Commissioner Tricia Jackson and Delegate Eric Householder both running for State Auditor, things will be unpredictable in that race in the Panhandle and statewide.

Republicans will be asked to choose between at least two clear conservative voices from their own area.

Householder reported a $124,000 campaign fund while Jackson had less than $3,000.

The anticipated entry of GOP State Senator Mark Hunt of Charleston into that race will surely scramble the potential outcome.

Jackson’s energy level may make up for Householder’s financial advantage.

So voters know which Senators are “in” with leadership, I’ll list those who signed on to Blair’s recent fundraiser, which was held at Tarr’s home.

Please don’t be confused. These Senators were reception “sponsors.” They did not sign on to Tarr’s propaganda piece against Justice and the House.

In addition to Tarr, these were on the invitation: Tom Takubo, Glenn Jeffries, Amy Grady, Jack David Woodrum, Mark Maynard, Mark Hunt, Mike Azinger, Donna Boley, Chandler Swope, Rupie Phillips, Vince Deeds, Patrick Martin, Ben Queen, Mike Oliverio, Eric Weld, Jason Barrett, Eric Nelson, Jay Taylor, Bill Hamilton, Mike Maroney and Charlie Clements.


Sitting GOP Senators not on the invitation are: Laura Wakim Chapman, Robert Karnes, Rollan Roberts, Patricia Rucker, Randy Smith, David Stover, Mike Stuart, Jay Taylor and Charles Trump.

Of those, Trump is a part of Blair’s leadership team but is an announced candidate for Supreme Court, which arguably keeps him out of partisan politics. Hee-hee.

For those keeping score at home, the three Senate Democrats obviously are not on the invitation. That’s Bob Plymale, Mike Caputo and Mike Woelfel.

Sitting Logan Judge Joshua Butcher has filed for re-election in the 11th Circuit.

Apparently being cute or sarcastic (maybe both), Butcher listed his phone number as 111-111-1111 on the pre-filing form. 

One can understand that perhaps a judge doesn’t want every Tom, Dick and Ron calling him, but he signs his application swearing his answers are truthful. Really?

Mingo Family Court Judge Sabrina Deskins had filed earlier. She and Butcher filed too late to report their financial situation at the end of September.

Since judicial races are … ahem … chuckle, chuckle … non-partisan, they’ll be decided at the May election rather than November.


Kanawha County, long home of seven circuit judges, will have eight in the next term.

Stephanie Abraham, wife of Governor Justice’s Chief of Staff Brian Abraham, was appointed earlier by the Governor.

She has pre-filed for election in the Eighth Circuit but is undeclared as to which division she will run in. She already has $109,000 in her campaign kitty and is running video ads.

Fellow Judge Maryclaire Akers is running in the 7th Division and has about $111,000 in her campaign account.

Charleston City Attorney Kevin Baker has pre-filed for Judge without a declared division. He has $23,000 on hand.

Charleston attorney Ashley Deem filed in Division Six and lists $39,000 in campaign funds.

Longtime Assistant Kanawha County Prosecutor Jennifer Dowdy Gordon is running for Judge in an undeclared division of the Kanawha Circuit.

She has about $9,000 in campaign funds.


State Finance Secretary David Hardy is also seeking a Kanawha judgeship. Like Butcher, he lists his contact number as 111-111-1111. Does that mean they reside in the same household?

I don’t think so.

Former Kanawha Democrat State Senator Richard Lindsay is seeking the new judgeship, Division Eight.

Incumbent Kanawha Judge Tera Salango has pre-filed for her Division Four seat. She’s the wife of Kanawha Democrat Commissioner Ben Salango. Like Hardy and Lindsay, she has not had a financial report due yet.

Incumbent Kanawha Judge Carrie Webster is running for her Division One seat. She lists $18,000 in funds on hand.

In the 16th Circuit, incumbent Judge Stephen Callaghan has pre-filed. Now there is only one judge but in 2024 there will be two in Nicholas County.

He reported having $3,000 in campaign funds.

Appointed incumbent Supreme Court Justice Haley C. Bunn is running to keep her seat. She says she has $212,000 in her campaign account.


Circuit Judge Laura Faircloth of Martinsburg is seeking re-election. She’s the wife of former Republican Delegate Larry Faircloth.

Finally (for now), Fayette County Republican Delegate Tom Fast has announced he’s running for Circuit Judge next year.

Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185 or


  • 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. View all posts

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.