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Editorial

Gregory’s Web – January 7, 2023

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The races are on and on and ….

In Mingo County, most had believed Circuit Judge Miki Thompson would not stand for 2024 re-election in the newly-reconfigured Eleventh Circuit. It’s composed of Logan and Mingo counties.

However, a social media post promoting her candidacy has now appeared. Meanwhile, Thompson pre-filed to run with the Secretary of State’s office some months ago.

So, it’s fairly certain the incumbent Mingo Judge is now in the 11th Circuit Judge race with Mingo Family Court Judge Sabrina Deskins.

Judge Deskins has been expected to retire from Family Court to run for Circuit Court for months. She pre-filed some time ago.

The new judicial district has three judges. In the past, Logan made up a circuit with two judges and Mingo was a separate circuit with one.

So, overall, the number of judges remains the same, at three. However, the method of electing them is now decidedly different.

Every voter in Mingo and Logan can vote in their county for three “division” candidates in the circuit.

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When votes are tabulated, the law says one judge must come from Mingo and two from Logan. That makes sense because Logan is larger, population-wise, than Mingo. 

It would also be logical if the two-county, two-judge Boone-Lincoln County circuit required one judge come from each county. It doesn’t.

Now, Boone, home to significantly more people than Lincoln, currently has no judges while Lincoln has both Judges Jay Hoke and Stacy Nowicki-Eldridge.

Those two are likely to be re-elected in 2024 and I would vote for both, even with my skepticism about Lincoln being over-represented.

Meanwhile, in the Logan-Mingo District, if three lawyers run from Logan and finish one, two and three in the overall balloting, only the top two of them will actually win.

The third slot will belong to the top vote-getting Mingo attorney. 

So even if ten run from Logan, only the top two can win. Understood?

* * * * * *

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I’ve commented that the biggest difference between Thompson and disgraced former Mingo Judge Michael Thornsbury is that Thompson smiles when putting the shaft to defendants and others while Thornsbury never did.

Thornsbury played the role of a tyrant well. Thompson looks and acts more like a school marm although her iron fist is just as wicked.

If one looks only at the Dawson Isom murder case, it takes little effort to see how the wheels of (in)justice turn in Thompson’s courtroom. 

Granted, I am prejudiced in the Isom case. 

The facts are that then-18-year-old Dawson Isom was literally beaten to death on Williamson’s Second Avenue on a bright Saturday with no provocation six years ago. That is a dreadful thought for anyone and I was instantly sympathetic.

Prior to getting a call about the beating from Isom’s step-mother, Melissa, I knew no one in their family.

From sealing civil court records to stifle prosecution to banning children who supported Dawson Isom from her courtroom, Thompson took the prize for tyranny. 

She told deputies she wanted to keep the students out because she feared their red clothing would “cause a riot.”

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Before someone pounces to say, “Ron only writes about the Isom case because it’s an isolated example of injustice,” I’ll assure you that there are plenty of others to consider. Meet me at the Second Avenue Circuit Clerk’s office any weekday and we’ll check the files. 

Clerk Lonnie Hannah is open and transparent. His public records are, in fact, public.

I’ll reiterate. A young man was murdered in cold blood. Thanks in large part to Judge Thompson, there was no justice in “Bloody Mingo” then or now.

An inept Prosecutor, Teresa Maynard,  contributed to the Isom travesty but the Judge appeared to be in defense attorney Brian Abraham’s pocket all the way. 

Abraham orchestrated the band’s performance but Thompson played the lead violin.

Judges often take credit for being “tough on crime.” In this case and several others we will discuss in coming months, that’s rarely been the case in “Bloody Mingo.”

There have been noticeable improvements in the last six years at the Mingo courthouse. Still, further work in honesty and transparency are needed.

Thompson has a record she’ll need to defend.

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I will continue to love and respect the people of Mingo while telling the truth of the past and lingering corruption.

One thing I do believe: there are no finer folks than the people of Mingo County.

* * * * * *

It should not be surprising that at her pre-filing with the Secretary of State, Thompson not only chose to keep her contact telephone number secret but her address as well.

Here’s what she listed for her mailing address: “NA, NA, WV 11111.”

How would you like to be the postman expected to deliver that parcel?

The phone number on the form is (304) 784-9548, which is apparently a private cell phone. A call to it got a voice message that it evidently belongs to her Treasurer, Gary Thompson.

The campaign has not yet had a financial report due so we’re in the dark on that. But filing the Treasurer’s number, if that’s what it is, is okay but it still does not provide direct access to the candidate.

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With regard to the address and phone number, however, I’ve pointed out a lack of truthfulness by a few other judges in earlier telephone number reports. 

I’ve observed that many of those who fail to list a phone number and/or address (or fake ones), are likewise secretive in conducting their public court business. 

The “average” citizen stands little chance of ever getting through to such officials, even though they work for the public as surely as Sheriffs and Assessors.

On a more worrisome note, when a Judge candidate signs to file for office, he or she certifies, under oath,  that the information on the form is truthful. 

Obviously, Thompson fibbed when she listed her address.

In certifying her information, she signed her form in the presence of a Notary Public to verify its accuracy.

I’m sorry to tell you, but that means she swore to untruths under oath. She’s a Judge; shouldn’t we expect better?

Is lying under oath not a crime for most people?

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As my Gilmer County grandfather, Robert Crook, always said, “if you’ll lie about one thing, you’ll lie about something else.”

* * * * * *

So, what else is Thompson spinning yarns about? That’s the main question of this campaign.

Keep in mind, she did not simply leave the address space blank. She filled in gobbledygook, meaning she may not be located if she files other false information or is accused of breaking campaign laws, accidentally or intentionally.

* * * * * *

Here’s what a candidate must swear to before a Notary Public when filling out a candidacy form in West Virginia:

“I swear and affirm that I am a candidate for this office in good faith, meet all constitutional and statutory qualifications to seek and hold the office sought, am eligible and qualified to hold this office, and that the information provided on this form is true (emphasis added).”

Let’s hope the truth is occasionally more important in Thompson’s court than it is on her election forms.

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* * * * * *

Thompson should have been woodshedded by the Supreme Court for her behavior in trying to keep students outside her courtroom. She wasn’t.

So she set a low bar of expectations from the beginning of her term.

* * * * * *

We managed to get rid of then-Prosecutor Maynard in the first Mingo election held after her appointment. Current Prosecutor Duke Jewell won the job then.

Young Dawson actually fought a valiant battle before passing six years later.

Jewell did nothing to pursue justice in the case.

Mingo voters began corrective action with Maynard. Now it’s time to finish it with Thompson.

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* * * * * *

A full renovation of the House of Delegates Chamber – the second in its history – has recently been completed in time for the January 2024 regular session.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw and Clerk Steve Harrison are clearly pleased with the rehab, according to reports.

Just think … Legislators can be tucked into a bright, modern chamber while the next quarantine pins their constituency outside. Oh no, GOP legislators won’t allow a Governor to get away with that.

* * * * * *

Every time there’s a glitch with one of the new industries that the state has squandered $500 million and their first born child on, I revive my proposal that some state agency or office should maintain a monthly report of jobs added and lost in the state.

* * * * * *

Look for either Charleston attorney JB Akers or Donald (JR) Carter to be Governor Justice’s pick to take former Kanawha Delegate Moore Capito’s spot. 

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Capito resigned to devote full time to running for Governor.

Akers is a former Republican Charleston Mayor nominee. Carter is also a Charleston lawyer.

Macs Hall, consulting owner of Maxco, is the third name submitted to the Governor.

* * * * * *

Kanawha County Board of Education member Ryan White announced his resignation to run for the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

* * * * * *

It’s fairly easy to figure that Republican Delegate and Majority Leader Eric Householder is not pleased with a late 2o23 decision made by Delegate Caleb Hanna.

Hanna announced last week that he’d give up his House seat to run full speed for State Auditor instead.

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The Martinsburg Delegate apparently thinks the Nicholas Countian will take votes from him in the GOP primary. 

Householder had pre-filed and has been campaigning for Auditor himself.

“Former Delegate Hanna quit on the people of Nicholas, Webster and Greenbrier Counties who elected him to the House,” Householder sniffed. “If Mr. Hanna will quit this job, he will no doubt be willing to quit any job.

What’s next for my opponent? Will he also move away from his district to play games with the people of West Virginia? The people of West Virginia need a leader with a proven conservative record to serve as their State Auditor.  I’ve never been a quitter and never will be.”

Householder was also making a veiled  reference to rumors that Hanna will re-establish his residence in Charleston to enhance his Auditor chances.

* * * * * *

The advent of social media marketing and gossiping has definitely placed a new layer on political games as they are played.

New social media sites seem to sprout up daily with focus on certain locations and candidates.

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For example, “Kanawha County Justice” appears to have a negative opinion of County Commissioner Ben Salango and his Circuit Judge wife, Tera Salango.

“Cabell County Accountancy and Transparency Project” focuses on elected officials like County Commissioner Kelli Sabonya.

It seems that the issue of correct Cabell magisterial district mapping is still alive from at least an election or two ago.

The Cabell Project has managed to come up with an audio recording that sounds like then-Democrat Commissioner Jim Morgan. In fact, I believe it is Morgan.

Some who attended a Commission meeting in 2001 where redistricting was discussed have distinctly recalled Morgan saying that two Cabell Commissioners were serving from the same magisterial district at the same time “according to the maps at the Secretary of State’s office.” That’s a no-no.

Morgan went on, “and I’m not one of them.”

State law prohibits the election of more than one Commissioner from any single district.

I attended the meeting and that tape confirms what we all heard that day.

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It certainly seemed like an odd comment by the Democrat Commissioner.

If Morgan’s statement is correct, either Sobonya or the late Nancy Cartmill were serving illegally at some point.

Ironically, two years later, candidates were removed from the ballot for allegedly living in the wrong district.

Did they? We still don’t know but some clandestine Cabell maps that were being housed at the SOS office at the time were given to me after a Freedom of Information Act request. 

We could not open the electronic maps then but I understand they have now been revealed by “Cabell County Accountancy and Transparency.”

Interesting? It sure is.

* * * * * *

Not only did Delegate Moore Capito resign from the House recently to concentrate on his 2024 Governor campaign, but he has a new campaign manager as well.

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Todd Gunter is the new nuts-and-bolts guy. He’s a sixth-generation West Virginian, 

He comes to Capito’s campaign after decades of work as a volunteer, grassroots activist, Republican committeeman and campaign staffer. He has spent the past 16 years serving as a state aide to United States Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Moore Capito’s mother.

* * * * * *

I do expect sparks to fly in Commissioner Sobonya’s re-election campaign.

Jan Hite-King of Salt Rock has already pre-filed for that position in the Republican primary.

King is one of the candidates that the Commission removed from the ballot two years ago because she allegedly lived in a district that was already represented.

The hotly-disputed  removal remains pending in federal court where King filed it.

At this early time in the contest, a Soboyna-King matchup is difficult to call. I’d say it’s a toss-up.

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* * * * * *

You read about it on Wv Statewide first. State Republican Chair Elgine McArdle is stepping down to run for Intermediate Court Judge. The Chair confirmed her party leadership retirement, effective January 20.

McArdle stopped short of saying she’s running for IMC, perhaps because that’s a non-partisan (wink. wink) seat.

Then, of course, there’s the inherent GOP leadership position of keeping as much information as possible from the public.

A new Chair is expected to be elected at the State Executive Committee’s January 20 meeting in Charleston.

I’ve discussed the coming Chair election with few and news of McArdle’s departure came too late last week for me to hear much gossip.

At this point, I do realize that current state GOP leadership simply wants to play musical chairs with the top jobs.

My first mental reaction to the McArdle news was that now the delegates at the January 20 meeting could make things right and elect former Chair Conrad Lucas to the presiding position.

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Since most observers thought Lucas was actually elected anyway when party officials created pandemonium and declared Mark Harris a one-vote victor, this could be an olive branch in settling festering hard feelings.

Add to that the fact that Lucas did an excellent job in further leading the GOP to majority status in the state.

He also carried quite a load and was a valuable asset as Clerk in Charleston Municipal Court for Republican Judge Anne Charnock.

Unfortunately, a recent bylaw revision might eliminate Lucas or any lobbyist from serving as state Chair.

Historically, there have been some real duds in the State Party Chair position. Are your ears burning, Mark Harris?

Meanwhile, Republican State Senator Eric Tarr of Putnam County weighed in on  McArdle’s replacement.

Tarr chooses to summarize the current leadership upheaval thusly: “Unprecedented Leadership Transition Embodies West Virginia GOP’s Vision for the Future.”

Tarr next reports that Co-Chair Tony Hodge has offered to step aside to ensure the party’s “continued success and adherence to the will of the State Executive Committee.”

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Not, you will note, to the will of loyal GOP voters standing and sitting all over the state. No, we must serve the will of the State Executive Committee.

The sad fact is that this is not misspeak. GOP leaders, by and large, have always disliked regular Republicans who think for themselves. 

Listen to Tarr’s rhetoric. During “a pivotal moment on January 4th,” Co-chair Tony Hodge, alongside McArdle, “endorsed the potential leadership of Dr. Matt Herridge as Chair.

This “pivotal” moment, while not quite seismic, did show the GOP’s devotion to “principled succession planning,” according to Tarr.

North Korean leader 

Kim Jong Un and his direct ancestors have also been dedicated to “successful succession planning” of leadership over the years.

Enough cannot be said about GOP officials who seem to have a burning desire to consolidate power to a few selected leaders. The last thing these folks would ever want would be a fair and equal playing field for all committee members or, even worse, rank-and-file Republicans to voice their opinions.

The gist of what leadership has decided is best for their flock is for Hodge to resign as Co-chair when McArdle goes.

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Why is he making such a sacrifice? Because party bylaws prohibit the Chair and Co-chair from being the same sex.

We could spend a little time on the message conveyed by that rule but we’ll save it for later.

So, Hodge had to agree to step down if a man replaces a woman as Chair.

And yes, a new female Co-chair will be selected.

Dr. Matt Herridge is a self-described socially conservative businessman and Trump supporter. He is the preferred leadership choice for Chair.

“The party’s growth demands a leader with proven social and fiscal conservatism, a track record of 

organizational efficiency, and a seasoned grasp of political operations,” Tarr writes in endorsing Herridge.

Leadership gave similar assurances about Harris, who nobody seemed to know very well.

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Let’s hope their new choice is much better suited for the position.

I sincerely hope he is.

We’ll talk more about this next week.

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

Author

  • 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.

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.