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Gregory’s Web – December 10, 2023

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Charleston – A top aide to former Democrat United  States Senator Jay Rockefeller has livened up the First Congressional District race for 2024.

Wesley Holden

My longtime friend, Kanawha County’s Wesley Holden, has announced his candidacy as an independent for the seat now held by incumbent Republican Congresswoman Carol Miller. 

Holden is a tenth-generation West Virginian who worked in the state medical examiner’s office and with the Medicaid fraud unit as well as Rockefeller.

Holden is a resident of Sissonville, where he raised two daughters with his late wife.

He is also a military veteran, having served in the United States Army.

Learning from his experience with Rockefeller, Holden says constituent services and helping people solve their problems with the government are his top priorities.

From my experience, that is an area where Miller comes up short.

Rockefeller served two terms as Governor and one as Secretary of State before voters sent him to the Senate.

“I go traveling around, all over the state. I go to the Southern coal fields or in the rural counties,” Holden explained. “I see storefronts boarded up. I see people, you know, they look like they have no hope in their eyes. I want to give the people hope.”

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Holden says he is running as an independent because both Republicans and Democrats care more about their party interests than they do about helping people.

He is a veteran of the Vietnam War era. With a draft number of 365 (no chance of getting drafted), he enlisted the day after high school graduation.

During his service, he was awarded one of the U.S. Army’s most distinguished awards, the Soldier’s Medal for Heroism.

After an Honorable Discharge, he attended West Virginia State University and the West Virginia College of Graduate Studies. 

Holden worked for Senator Rockefeller for 30 years and eight years while he was Governor.

More recently, Holden volunteered to clean out houses and distribute household supplies to flood victims in the Clendenin and Elkview area after the devastating flood of 2016.

That’s doing a lot more than the area’s Congressman at the time, Republican Alex Mooney, did. 

The Congressman (in)famously traveled on an overseas junket while others – like Holden – provided relief for flood victims.

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Holden said he feels frustrated about the problems we are all facing. Having insight into how the government works and the motivation to improve conditions, he said he feels he cannot sit by any longer.  

“It has been a long time since voters had any choice other than to vote for the better of the two major party candidates,” he said. 

“Why not vote for an alternative, an independent candidate?” Holden asked. “Voters should have a choice.” 

I know Holden as a sincere, hard-working member of society. He’d make an outstanding Congressman.

Derrick Evans, the political prisoner from the January 6, 2021, Capitol rally, is challenging Miller in the GOP primary.


The absence of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey from last week’s Republican gubernatorial debate apparently did not open enough room for Rashida Yost.

Having asked if debate moderator Hoppy Kercheval is a male chauvinist, Yost is just as much a candidate as anyone else who has pre-filed.

Rashida Yost

Yet, Friday’s get-together featured three male candidates. A fourth candidate, Morrisey, chose not to attend.

The fifth contender, Yost, was not invited. She recently chalked that up to male chauvinism on the part of MetroNews debate moderator Hoppy Kercheval.

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One of the other candidates, Huntington businessman Chris Miller, accused Morrisey of “hiding out.” 

In all fairness, the Attorney General did sit down for a far-reaching interview with HDMedia at the time of the debate.

Kanawha County Delegate Moore Capito, Secretary of State Mac Warner and Miller participated in last week’s session.

Still, it was held without two announced candidates. One was absent because she wasn’t invited, so that’s understandable.

Notably, Miller was the most outspoken critic of Morrisey’s absence.

Miller’s Morrisey attack must have warmed the hearts of Miller supporters. They’ve been clamoring for their man, with a $3 million warchest, to go after Morrisey. He finally did it.


Attending a debate or not, the great news from Morrisey to West Virginia voters last week was that he found time on his busy schedule to sue the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Morrisey and his fellow AGs from six states think the NCAA is violating the Sherman Antitrust Act with their current transfer policy. WVU officials and coaches dislike the rules.

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Patrick Morrisey

So, Morrisey is fighting the policy since it has negatively impacted West Virginia University. Yet he lacks the time to intervene in civil cases filed against the state. His failure to file Notices of Appearance in such trials may have cost the state millions of dollars, according to Nitro attorney Harvey Peyton.

Morrisey might have feared he would be asked about Peyton’s allegations if he showed up for the debate.


It’s difficult to believe that CNN is reporting that President Joe Biden’s job approval rating trickled down again in their latest poll.

Now, the network says just 37 percent of voters approve of his handling of the job.

As deep in the President’s pocket as CNN is trying to  hide, one would never expect them to report his numbers that low.

Former Republican President Donald Trump has taken a large lead in most surveys, particularly in swing states.

It is indeed difficult to believe that Biden – an almost certain loser in 2024 – will head the Democrat ticket next year.

Party strategists have not figured out a pleasant way to move the President off the re-election campaign trail, though.

Maybe the low survey numbers will show Biden the “exit” sign.

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Delusional far-right-wingers might take note that the national media highlighted West Virginia Republican United States Senator Shelley Moore Capito last week.

Shelley Moore Capito

While the far-rightists constantly criticize Capito as a RINO (Republican in Name Only), she was holding up funding for Israel and Ukraine pending some movement on defending our own Southern border.

Some rightists often take to social media to denounce Capito. They go so far as to beg some like-minded ultra-conservative to challenge Capito in her next GOP primary.

What a waste of time and fresh air.

First of all, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t defeat Capito at the ballot box.

Plus, any Democrat elected would never take the strong conservative position Capito has taken on the border issue and a majority of others.

Mountain State Republicans should be glad they still have her.


Meanwhile, West Virginia’s Democrat United States Senator Joe Manchin continues to draw banner headlines across the political divide as he toys with the idea of running an independent or No Labels Presidential campaign.


On the subject of Capito, some speculate that her son, Moore Capito, will resign as House Judiciary Chair to devote more time to his gubernatorial campaign.

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Moore Capito

The theory is that the Chair position will take up considerable time when Delegate Capito could be out on the hustings.


On a different front, Beckley leaders contemplate a major change in how the Raleigh County city operates.

WWVA-6 in Bluefield found Common Council members divided on the possibility of installing a City Manager-style government.

The current Mayor, Rob Rappold, favors changing the city’s governmental structure although it would signal a dramatic cut in the Mayor’s salary.

Rob Rappold

The Mayor says he’s been working “for years” to implement the type of government that puts an appointed City Manager – not an elected Mayor – in charge of day-to-day operations.

“This change in the city’s charter would diminish both the mayoral duties and salary,” according to WVVA.

Mayor Rappold told the station that, if council and voters approve the plan, it would make the Mayoral position mostly celebratory.

He likened the job to being the “CEO” of the city.

Under the new plan, the Mayor would be appointed by Council. The change in the city’s charter would make the position “ceremonial” and cut the salary from $60,000 to $12,000 per year.

Under the new system, Council would appoint an individual to serve as Mayor.

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The change would also allow the mayor to serve as a voting member of the city’s Council.

The revision was approved on first reading at the November 28 Council meeting by a 4-3 vote.

The TV station interviewed one of the “no” votes, who appears to have legitimate concerns.

Councilman-at-Large Cody Reedy said, “I just feel like we’re doing this very last minute.”

He went on, “The way it’s (the City Charter) currently wrote (sic) is that the council will hire the City Manager before July 1 when it takes effect, so the new council will have no say-so of the person that they would be working with to run and operate the city.”

That arrangement is a concern, Reedy opines.

He would like to table the question until the beginning of the next Council term.

If that delay is approved, skeptics say there might be some conflict with current state law that does not permit salary changes during an existing term of office. In other words, a new Mayor might have greatly reduced duties but the city could be forced to pay the larger salary. 

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Reedy would like to see the issue tabled and brought up at the beginning of the next Council term, which would be in July of 2024. 

Rappold says he plans to ask current Council members to give the choice to the people of Beckley. He told WVVA that he wants to put the option of a city manager position on the primary election ballot in May 2024.

He added that he plans to make the issue an agenda item for approval at the December 12 Council meeting, rather than putting the motion up for its second reading as was originally planned.

Perhaps switching to a City Manager system would cause less division in Beckley city elections. 

I was involved in the last campaign, where tempers flared and vicious gossip ruled the day.

The city’s role in LGBTQ+ issues and scandalous rumors about some candidates reached the point of the absurd.

The gossip even made its way into county contests. It was shameful.

The Register-Herald newspaper fanned the flames by doing a hit piece on one Magistrate candidate. They timed its publication so that there was no time for a response.

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I’m surprised the candidate didn’t sue the paper.

Beckley is a better town than that campaign portrayed it to be.

We’ll see who prevails on the Mayor-City Manager question.


My longtime political consultant/pal Bill Phillips may have caught wind of something we’ve missed.

The former Governor Cecil Underwood Chief of Staff, Phillips now resides in Florida but keeps his fingers tightly pressed on the political pulse in West Virginia. 

He’s particularly in tune with Mountain State Republicans, many of whom he’s worked with in campaigns over the years.

Phillips still produces a column he calls “Political Tidbits,” which he posts on social media and emails to a select group of politically-inclined friends.

His December 6 issue begins, “Unconfirmed…rumors are WV Governor Justice … may not be able to seek the U. S. Senate seat … confirmed. Democrats are making calls seeking a strong candidate.”

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By the way, the punctuation belongs to my friend Bill, with whom I proudly worked the 2004 Dan Moore for Governor campaign.


Phillips also noted in the same issue that his “home county” in West Virginia, Randolph, is now registered majority Republican.

That led him to observe, “Mary Heineman…who guided my political career must be smiling from Maplewood Cemetery…congratulations to Carolyn Jackson GOP Chair in Randolph.”


So what does Phillips know that we don’t? Is it possible that health issues are plaguing the Governor again?

Or could it be legal difficulties, which many have buzzed about for years?

Within the last month, speculation has centered on financial disputes between the Justice family and Virginia-based Carter Bank & Trust.

In fact, some have been predicting that the family might end up losing their crown jewel, The Greenbrier Resort.

I understand another hearing in that matter is scheduled for tomorrow (Monday) in Virginia.

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A different Republican consultant chuckled when I asked if there were any legal issues that might drive the Governor from the Senate race.

“You might ask how many hundred legal issues could do it,” he eventually said.

Meanwhile, if you know what Bill Phillips knows, let me know and we’ll all share the secret.


Here’s how the social media Jefferson County Perspective news site headlined the appointment of a new County Commissioner: “FAR-LEFT ENVIRONMENTALIST AND STOLIPHER PUPPET PASHA MAJDI NAMED NEW COUNTY COMMISSIONER.”

Pasha Majdi

The accompanying story detailed how Jefferson County finally got its fifth County Commissioner last week.

“Judge Bridget Cohee, in response to a petition for a Writ of Mandamus,  ordered all County Commissioners to attend today’s special session of the County Commission and vote on all agenda items,” the site reported.

Commissioners Tricia Jackson and Jennifer Krouse were ordered to attend the proceedings. The pair had been refusing to attend, causing no business to be conducted for lack of a quorum. Thus, a vacancy created by an elected Commissioner left the body with just four members.

As predicted here last week, Commissioner Jane Tabb struck Isabel Simon from the list of possible Commissioners.

Who voted next had been a point of controversy. State Code says the longest-serving Commissioner (Tabb) strikes one name from a three-candidate list submitted by the county Executive Committee of the same party as the member being replaced. In this case, that was the county Republican Committee.

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Earlier discussion had centered on the fact that President Steve Stolipher and Jackson were elected and started serving at the same time. There was no provision in Code to determine whether it was Stolipher or Jackson who would strike second.

However, Stolipher gave up his strike, leaving Commissioner Jackson to strike Keith Lowry from the list. Jackson and Krouse had stated publicly that they felt Lowry was not qualified since the agency he directs receives some funding from the Commission.

Striking Lowry and Simon meant the remaining candidate (Majdi) was appointed to fill the Charles Town seat.  

In as much as Majdi does not live in the Charles Town District, he will only serve until December 31, 2024.

Jefferson County Perspective and other conservatives in the county have labeled Majdi a RINO.

In reporting his appointment, JCP called him “the head lobbyist for far-left Conservation International.”

While earlier running for mayor of Vienna, Virginia, JCP said Majdi expressed disappointment that people did not support his “progressive” values.

It went on, “Majdi ran for WV House of Delegates in 2022 and was soundly rejected by voters in the primary.”

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JCP continues: “Yes, this RINO is one of the names that the Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee thought should serve as your county commissioner.  That says a lot about the JCREC, and many of its members, doesn’t it?”

Summing it all up, JCP declares, “The silver lining to this grey cloud is that we will now be able to spend the next year exposing Pasha for the RINO that he is.  Likewise, another bonus is that Keith Lowry was not named as Commissioner.

It concludes, “Judge Cohee is up for election in 2024 so everyone can work diligently to make sure she is not elected to the bench again.”


While nobody seems to know details, many also speculate that a myriad of problems for the Governor’s Department of Health and Human Resources could spell legal and political difficulties for the Justice down the road.

Longtime government watchers think COVID funds were handled so haphazardly, for instance, that misspending is inherent in the system.


While procrastination and absolutely ignoring some government functions have highlighted the current gubernatorial administration, no one can criticize Justice for being slow to appoint judges.

The ink had barely dried late last week on the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission’s recommendations for Cabell County Circuit Judge before the Governor had appointed Corky Hammers.

Sean “Corky” Hammers

Hammers had been one of the two names submitted to Justice by the JVAC. The other was Elani Kantos-Miller.

Hammers’ appointment follows a pattern of Judge appointments where the favored candidate was obvious from the beginning.

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Justice called Hammers “a highly-respected attorney with a proven record of service to Cabell County,”

In fact, Hammers had been in the Cabell Prosecutor’s office for more than two decades, first as an Assistant and then as Prosecutor.

“I am confident that his experience, dedication and commitment to justice will make him an excellent judge,” the Governor said.

Hammers replaces Judge Chris Chiles, who recently retired.

The new Judge became Prosecutor when Chiles stepped up to become a Circuit Judge.

Hammers grew up in Barboursville. He earned his undergraduate degree at Marshall and his law degree at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, in 1993.


Hammers’ appointment leads to an opening for Prosecutor.

Courthouse whispers said the County Commission will choose between Family Court Judge Jana Howard, Payton Smith and Ashley Lockwood.

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Smith is the daughter of Marshall President Brad Smith. Lockwood’s father was longtime Huntington attorney David Lockwood.

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

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  • 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.