In case you wondered, my favorite poem of all time is “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson.
Thanks for asking. Oh, you didn’t ask, did you?
For those not familiar, “Richard Cory” is a narrative poem that describes the highly-successful and enviable Mr. Cory.
In fact, he was “… a gentleman from sole to crown, Clean favored, and imperially slim.”
Richard Cory “was always quietly arrayed, but still he fluttered pulses when he said, ‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.”
Additionally, he was “rich– yes, richer than a king – and admirably schooled in every grace: In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.” Then the poem concludes, “so on we worked, and waited for the light; and went without the meat and cursed the bread.
“And Richard Cory, one calm summer night, Went home and put a bullet through his head.”
Often, when I disclose my favorite poem to someone, he or she seems puzzled.
I quickly assure whoever I’m talking with that I’m never suicidal and I’m not generally a negative person.
The finality of the poem is not what grips me. It’s the message of these words that appeal to my spirit, not the outward, gruesome circumstances.
What Robinson the poet describes perfectly is how often things are not as they appear.
We regularly view our world, particularly when it comes to politics, as black and white; good and bad; right and wrong.
Many times, though, circumstances are not as they appear. What at first seems right might be questionable. It may even turn out to be completely wrong.
Richard Cory was the envy of the town. The men and women on the streets were impressed by his good looks and great fortune.
Still, something was just not right in Richard Cory’s life. Perhaps a trusted friend knew what bothered him.
Maybe he shared his darkest secrets with no one.
Regardless, the great burden or burdens became too overwhelming and he could take it no more. So, he took matters into his own hands and ended them with a bullet.
Are things really ever as they appear?
Certainly. Are they always? Absolutely not.
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All right, class. The poetry exposition is over.
I will explain, however, what this poetry session has to do with politics.
It’s this simple: when one first glances at Jefferson County Commission infighting, the conclusion is likely wrong.
We have to hand it to Jefferson County Prosecutor Matthew Harvey, though. He’s done a terrific job of painting a brown horse green for the world to see.
In this case, the Prosecuting Attorney has portrayed two principled County Commissioners as scofflaws with absolutely no respect for the offices they hold.
If a judge and/or jury heard only Harvey’s rendition of the Jefferson dispute, they would surely side against Commissioners Jennifer Krouse and Tricia Jackson.
Those ignorant of all the facts would buy Harvey’s assertion that these are two public officials refusing to do their duty yet eagerly cashing their paychecks.
Those accepting that would be wrong.
First of all, anyone who’s been a County Commissioner or is really familiar with one knows regular meetings are but a small part of their responsibilities.
Harvey cannot possibly know what Krouse and Jackson are doing for their pay unless he has them followed, night and day.
I’m confident he hasn’t done that – yet anyway.
From dealing with citizen disputes to neighborhood meetings, acts of God, infrastructure projects and much more, a Commissioner’s public service rarely gets a lengthy timeout.
Just as Richard Cory’s fellow townspeople learned, things are not really as they appear from a casual glance.
Not even close.
On one hand, the dispute in Jefferson pits two very different sides against each other. On the other hand, it really isn’t that simple either.
In a superficial analysis, the disagreement pits two Commissioners (Jackson and Krouse) against two others (President Steve Stolipher and member Jane Tabb).
The issue, on the surface at least, is naming a fifth Commissioner to an existing Charles Town District vacancy.
If choosing a replacement was the only issue, it might not require the wisdom of Solomon to solve this impasse.
The combatants here know what picking a new Commissioner really means, however. It means the Commission balance of power will go one way or the other.
If the fifth Commissioner is an ally of Jackson and Krouse, all decisions for the immediate future will likely go their way. If Stolipher and Tabb get their choice, the opposite is predictable.
It could well be that future development of Jefferson County hinges on which side prevails in naming Commissioner Number Five.
Regardless, if this Prosecutor is as skilled at narrating evidence to pin villains in criminal cases as he is in his 38-page attack on Jackson and Krouse, there surely are no crooks running loose in Jefferson County.
After reading Harvey’s masterpiece with no other knowledge of the facts, a reasonable judge would take no more than half a second to toss Krouse and Jackson from office.
Harvey ingeniously explains that Jackson and Krouse, who refuse to attend Commission meetings with selection of the replacement on the agenda, are not doing their jobs.
For all the world, the two are portrayed as obstinate brats unwilling for the other children to play with any of their toys.
Frankly, the Prosecutor is hardly in a position to render a verdict on whether or not Krouse and Jackson are doing their jobs.
Harvey makes it sound as if Krouse and Jackson are simply obstructionists hell-bent on shutting down their own government.
The Prosecutor asks the court to turn the same chronically deaf ear to Jackson and Krouse that he has.
Somewhere, in all the efforts to force the two to go through with a dog-and-pony show to select someone they don’t believe is qualified, neither the Prosecutor nor Stolipher nor Tabb can actually hear a word Jackson and Krouse are saying.
Jackson and Krouse have said and written repeatedly that they will attend Commission meetings if the replacement issue is not on the agenda.
They have serious questions and objections to the replacement process. A lawsuit concerning the replacement process is pending.
In this case, the two are doing the only thing available to them to stop what they feel would be improper.
An unqualified or otherwise problematic new member cannot be seated if these two refuse to provide a quorum.
Many in Jefferson County, the Eastern Panhandle and the state see the very future of this region at stake.
Decisions made by this County Commission will have an enormous impact on such things as solar energy, infrastructure projects, green space and dozens more issues.
I have no reason, at this point, to question the Prosecuting Attorney’s fairness and motives. I hope he’s being honest when he says he feels the two absent members are “forcing” him to take the action he has taken. I trust he hasn’t chosen political sides in what should be a strictly legal dispute.
I further hope that he’d be taking the same action if the other two members stopped attending meetings, with or without a valid reason.
All of this raises yet another point. Could he just as easily have petitioned for Stolipher’s removal? After all, if the President would simply remove the replacement issue from the agenda, Jackson and Krouse insist they would attend. County business would be addressed then.
It seems to me that if the President was not being stubborn here, a meeting agenda without the replacement matter could be issued.
Perhaps even an agenda with the replacement position placed last would work. That way all other county business that the Prosecutor is so concerned about could be conducted before Jackson and Krouse walk out, removing the required quorum.
Here’s my personal view of the bottom line: if the new Commissioner is aligned with Krouse and Jackson, transparency and conservative principles will prevail. If not, the opposite will rule the day.
With Stolipher and Tabb in charge, business will be conducted in darkness. Photos of solar panels everywhere will accurately portray the county.
There’s got to be a better way of selecting someone to fill a County Commission vacancy.
Aside from requiring the expense of special elections, where the public decides the replacement, no system would be ideal.
Still, the Legislature should look at the cumbersome method now required and try to somehow streamline it.
I have referred to the current method as “bass ackward.” Using it, each Commissioner strikes the name of who he or she does not want rather than choosing who they prefer.
It’s an outdated, antiquated method producing horrendous results. Jefferson is not an exception. It is just the latest example of a disastrous set of procedures that disrupt any kind of harmony.
I’m obviously biased in the Jefferson case but I certainly hope Krouse and Jackson prevail. I believe they will.
Rumors of potential party changes continue to dominate state political chatter. As we all know, switching from Democrat to Republican created a tidal wave that put the GOP in the driver’s seat of state politics after nearly a century of Democrat dominance.
The statehouse is run by Republicans these days.
Several County Commissions around the state have surprisingly flipped from blue to red with the party changes.
It would have been difficult to believe, for example, that the Mingo Commission would ever be Republican-controlled 15 years ago. Today, though, it is.
The state’s largest county, Kanawha, remains one of the few Democrat holdouts as this column is written.
Hefty gossip had Commissioner Ben Salango changing to Republican months ago. It increased when his wife, Circuit Judge Tera Salango, switched her registration to the GOP.
Still, as of Friday, the Commissioner remains a Democrat at the Voters’ Registration office.
If Ben Salango had become a Republican, that would have changed the balance of power at the Kanawha courthouse as well.
Currently, longtime Commission President Kent Carper is a Democrat and the third Commissioner, Lance Wheeler, is a Republican.
There have likewise been rumors that Carper would switch to the GOP before running for re-election in 2024.
On the subject of party change, a quirk in state election laws might persuade some to register independent to better test the political waters.
As a general rule, a candidate must have been a member of the party whose nomination he or she seeks at least 60 days prior to filing for office.
In other words, if John Doe decides to run for Assessor, he needs to have been a Democrat for at least 60 days to file under the donkey.
The same law applies to Republicans. You want to file January 27, 2024 as an elephant, you have to be registered Republican a minimum of 60 days prior to your filing.
However, there is no such time requirement for an independent. If that same John Doe wants to keep his party options open, he will register as an independent.
In that case, he can walk in the appropriate office at 11:59 p.m. on the final day of filing, change his registration to R or D, and immediately file in his new party’s primary.
Thus, an incredible incentive exists for someone planning a run to register independent. He or she can then see which way the party wind is blowing in late January and file for office as a member of the prevalent party.
Many are unaware of that law but I have confirmed it more than once with the Secretary of State’s office.
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I’ve pointed out quite often how quickly things can change in politics. The same applies in the non-partisan (chuckle, haha) world of judges as well.
Earlier I reported that Charleston attorney Ashley Deem would be a lock for appointment to a vacant Kanawha County Circuit Judge position.
That’s no longer true since state Revenue Secretary David Hardy threw his hat in the ring for the position.
The last remaining member of Governor Jim Justice’s original cabinet, Hardy will now undoubtedly get the appointment.
Hardy is a former Charleston City Councilman, Kanawha County Commissioner and county Democrat Committee official. He’s also one of those recent Republican converts.
Both Deem and Hardy have pre-filed for Judge in the Eighth Circuit. Deem filed in Division Six and Hardy in Division Two.
Both are likely winners in May. Deem reports about $40,000 in campaign funds. Hardy has not had a report due yet.
Of course party registration doesn’t matter in a “non-partisan” race.
Coming from the one political commentator who was wrong about United States Senator Joe Manchin running for re-election (me), let me now predict that he will run on the No Labels line for President.
If the Senator runs for Chief Executive, there are those who think Manchin will hurt former President Donald Trump’s chances more than President Biden’s.
I disagree and figure a Manchin presidential run nearly assures Trump of a triumphant return to Pennsylvania Avenue.
The race for Commissioner of Agriculture just got more interesting on the Republican side.
Incumbent Kent Leonhardt and Roy Ramey have now been joined by Steve David Stoy of Martinsburg in that contest.
Current officeholder Leonhardt is a resident of Fairview in Marion County. Ramey is at home in Lesage.
If, as would be expected, Stoy takes votes from Leonhardt in the Eastern Panhandle, this one could be ripe for an incumbent upset.
Leonhardt originally unseated Democrat Ag Commissioner Walt Helmick. He defeated former State Senator Bob Beach in 2020.
It seems a bit remarkable to me that two of West Virginia’s Board of Public Works members hail from New Jersey.
Both Morrisey and Leonhardt are transplanted Jerseyites.
Republican Mark Allers, Jr. pre-filed for the 99th House District, based in Charles Town.
Wayne Clark, another Republican, filed earlier in District 99.
That’s where ultra-conservative Daphne Andrews is already in the race, as well.
Judith Brush, a Martinsburg Republican, has pre-filed for the House, District 97.
Republican Michael Amos of Kenova has pre-filed for the House in District 27.
Ryan O’Neal Browning, a Kenova Republican, is running for the House in 28.
Martin Atkinson, a Republican from Reedy in Roane County, is running for the House in the 15th District.
Jarrod Cannon, a Hurricane Republican Incumbent, has announced for House District 21.
Former longtime Republican Delegate Ray Canterbury of Ronceverte, is planning a run in House District 47.
We’ll try to get caught up on all the legislative races next time.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185 or email@example.com