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Editorial

Gregory’s Web – January 14, 2024

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Republican State Senator Robert Karnes’ latest verbal missile fire certainly makes it apparent that he’s being truthful when he says nobody can intimidate him.

That Karnes is outspoken is a gross understatement. Saying he takes no prisoners when a war of words erupts is a fact that can’t be successfully disputed.

Legislative regulars already knew all that but his recent “word brawl” confirmed the fact for those unaware.

Likewise, anyone who has paid attention to Karnes’ rhetoric during his current term of office knows he is not a fan of GOP Senate President Craig Blair.

The latest dustup came after Republicans tossed Karnes out of their party’s Senate caucus.

The party line for the expulsion was that Karnes had “leaked” some caucus discussions to a podcaster.

The podcaster, identified by Karnes as Huntington radio voice Tom Roten, says he did not get his “top secret” information from the Randolph County Senator.

I do know Roten as the “straight shooter” he’s advertised to be. He said Karnes was not his source for “classified” information leaked from the caucus, so Karnes was simply not his source.

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Many observers repeat the comment “these walls have ears” quite often while in the capitol. 

I’d suggest that there has never been a truly “confidential” conversation beneath the gold dome.

If it was a holiday and only two people had a discussion at the “well,” the contents would be public knowledge in minutes.

It’s fairly obvious that leaked caucus information is not at the root of the current controversy.

Legislature watchers know the now-dominant Republicans are divided into at least two groups.

I still haven’t found a way to feel comfortable describing the two. So, we will simply refer to “moderate Republicans” and “far right Republicans.”

With those identifying features, Blair would somewhat fit as a “moderate” with Karnes “far right.” Even that does not properly describe the different sides. In addition, there are other Republicans who would better fit some other identification.

For our purposes here, we will generally place moderate Republicans as those that are fiscally conservative but in the middle of the road on social issues.

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Far right Republicans are generally fiscally conservative and deeply committed to right wing social issues such as abortion.

These two groups have skirmished while the GOP has grown into the state’s majority party.

That, in reality, is what’s behind the recent dispute between Blair and Karnes. Blair is a “moderate” and Karnes is “far right” and never the twain shall meet, it seems.

Roten, not normally a news maker, ended up at the apparent center of this current dispute. That was really just a convenient explanation for Karnes’ expulsion from the caucus.

Blair and his moderate leadership team have been openly courting potential moderate Republican candidates to run against far right incumbents for months. That clearly had nothing to do with leaked caucus reports.

* * * * * *

Karnes will never fit into the “good ole boys club” regardless.

After being dumped by his GOP colleagues, he wrote an “op-ed” piece that condemned Blair and his leadership team.

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In his article, Karnes includes some commentary that is intriguing. 

The Randolph County Senator insists, for example, that Roten lost his second radio job in a matter of weeks on orders from Putnam Republican State Senator Eric Tarr.

Specifically, he asserts that Roten, who was let go by iHeart Radio’s WVHU after 21 years and almost immediately picked up by LootPress.com in October is now the victim of a political discharge.

Karnes says Roten “was fired by (GOP Delegate) Brandon Steele’s Lootpress.com after threats from Eric Tarr of ‘consequences’ if he wasn’t shut up.”

Roten, who was fairly transparent about his parting with WVHU has not publicly explained his short-tenured program on LootPress. He seemed to be there one day and gone the next

Roten now does an independent podcast.

The major point of Karnes’ epistle is to say that “bribery” is a common legislative practice in Charleston.

He goes on to describe a phone call he alleges took place in the Capitol office of Kanawha Republican Senator Mark Hunt.

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Karnes essentially says a lobbyist offered unlimited campaign financing if he (Hunt) would change his vote on a so-called “marriage bill.”

Factually, says Karnes, Hunt did not accept the offer and didn’t change his vote.

Hunt was the hero of that story although Karnes likely was trying to paint the entire legislature in a bad light.

This is fascinating commentary that might never have surfaced if Karnes had not exited the GOP caucus. We’ll keep our eyes and ears open for more.

* * * * * *

I have said it before, but I like Karnes. One doesn’t have to guess where he stands on any issue.

He’s open and transparent. Not everyone is. 

* * * * * *

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The moral of his story may be that Senator Hunt is an honest man. With some campaign debt from the last election still hanging over him, he did not budge when many might have.

Impressive indeed.

* * * * * *

With folks lining up to run for office, we’ll devote most space this week to bringing you up to date.

On the humorous side, Republican Secretary of State Mac Warner, who is running for Governor, put out a press release about the record number of candidates who filed on opening day last week.

Actually, he put out two.

The first one said 154 people filed at his offices. The second one, issued minutes later, changed the number to 132.

A distorted mind found a chuckle when considering that officials like Warner have gone overboard in emphasizing the accuracy of vote counting.

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“But,” said one Capitol hallway straggler, “they couldn’t count to 132 and get it right.” 

In fairness, the press releases were not put through all the processes in place to guarantee the accuracy of ballot counting.

* * * * * *

The Derrick Evans Patriot Freedom Tour and Trey Ewing Campaign Kick-Off are set for 6 to 8 p.m., January 25 at the Lewisburg Elks Club.

Evans is a Republican Congressional candidate and former January 6 political prisoner. Ewing is a GOP candidate for House of Delegates.

The event is free with donations encouraged and “all Republicans are welcome to attend,” according to the invitation. 

Evans is endorsed by Mike Lindell and General Michael Flynn along with a number of other conservative leaders. 

* * * * * *

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I will never understand the political wisdom of making it clear only one’s party is invited.

Will the candidates only accept donations and votes from Republicans?

* * * * * *

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent presidential candidate, will be hosting a rally at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, January 27.

Kennedy is working to get on the ballot in all 50 states.

His candidacy could end any chance President Biden might have by siphoning liberal votes from the President.

* * * * * *

They say all good things must end. After 21 consecutive years, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper has turned the chair over to Republican Lance Wheeler.

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Commissioner Carper made the motion to elect Wheeler as President, a procedure required annually. Commissioner Ben Salango seconded the motion. Carper and Salango are Democrats.

When I spoke with Carper on Friday about his iconic leadership position, all he wanted to talk about was what a fine public official Wheeler is.

While that is true, it will be difficult for anyone to match Carper’s legendary leadership of the state’s largest county.

It’s good news that he’ll still be around as a Commissioner.

* * * * * *

Now, on to those who have filed. We’ll get you completely caught up on these at midweek.

Three Republicans and a Democrat have filed for President of the United States since our last report.

Former President Donald Trump is in along with Nikki Haley and Rachel MoHawk-Swift on the GOP side.

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Armando Perez-Serrato is the lone Democrat thus far.

Add Republican Governor Jim Justice to the previous filing by Congressman Alex Mooney and Janet McNulty for U.S. Senate.

Chris Reed, a Democrat of Charleston, is in the race for First District Congress. Also on the Democrat line is Jim Umberger of Lewisburg.

Republicans Dennis Cain of Hedgesville, Joseph Earley of Bridgeport and State Treasurer Riley Moore of Harpers Ferry have filed for Second District House of Delegates.

Steven Wendelin of Lost River is on the Democrat side for House, Second District.

There are no new filings for Governor or Secretary of State.

Jefferson County Commissioner Tricia Jackson filed for State Auditor. She joins Delegate Householder, who filed earlier on the Republican ticket.

Incumbent GOP Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt is running again.

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Mychal Schultz filed for Intermediate Court of Appeals. That is a non-partisan contest.

New filings for State Senate include former Delegate John Doyle, a Democrat from Shepherdstown in District 16.

Incumbent Republican Senator Patricia Rucker filed for re-election in the 16th. She joins Delegate Paul Espinosa, who filed earlier.

Now for new filings for the House of Delegates, we have Republican incumbent Paul Zatezalo in the Second District.

GOP Delegate Jimmy Willis has filed in Three.

Incumbent Republican Diana Winzenried is on the ballot in the Fourth District. Incumbent Jeff Stephens of the GOP has filed in the Sixth.

Republican incumbent Charles Sheedy is seeking re-election in District Seven. Democrat Devon Tennant has filed there as well.

Republican incumbent David Kelly has filed in the Eighth. Another Republican, David Shelton, is also running.

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Republican incumbent, Trenton Barnhart, is signed up in District Nine as is GOP incumbent Bill Anderson in ten.

Republican incumbent Bob Fehernbacher wants another term in District 11. GOP incumbent Vernon Criss is on the ballot in the Twelfth.

Incumbent Republican Scot Heckert is signed up in District 13.

Republican Dave Foggin, an incumbent, has filed in the 14th.

GOP incumbent Erica Moore has filed in the 15th. In District 16,  Republican Randy Halstead is running as is the GOP’s Joe Parsons.

Incumbent Republican Jonothan Pinson has filed for re-election in the Seventeenth as has the GOP’s Jim Butler in 18.

Former Hooters girl and Republican incumbent Kathie Hess-Crouse is running in District 19.

Fellow Buffalo resident Debbie Deweese, a Republican, is also running in 19.

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The GOP’s Jacob Losh of Scott Depot has filed in the 20th District. That district is now represented by Geoff Foster, a Republican that many do not expect to run.

Republican incumbent Jarrod Cannon is a candidate in the 21st District.

GOP incumbent Patrick Lucas has filed in the 24th. Republican incumbent Matthew Rohrbach is running again in 26.

Republican Michael Amos has filed in the 27th District. The district is currently represented by Democrat Ric Griffith, who is running for the State Senate.

Republican incumbent Henry Corby Dillon is on the ballot in District 29. Nate Randolph, an East Lynn Republican, is also running.

Republican incumbent and Hamlin Mayor David Adkins has filed in the 30th District. 

In District 31, GOP incumbent Margitta Mazzocchi has filed. Republican incumbent Josh Holstein is running for re-election in the 32nd. Incumbent Republican Jordan Bridges has filed in the 33rd District.

Republican incumbent Mark Dean has signed up in 34. So has the GOP’s Gavin Dillon.

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Incumbent Republican Adam Vance has filed in the 35th. In 36, Republican David Green of Iaeger is running.

Incumbent Republican Marty Gearhart has filed in the 37th District. In District 38, GOP incumbent Joe Ellington has filed. 

Incumbent Republican Doug Smith is signed up in 39. 

Republican incumbent Roy Cooper has filed in District 40. The GOP’s Jonathon Fain is also running in 40.

In the 41st District, Republican incumbent Jordan Maynor has filed. Democrat Addam Gibson has filed in 42 as has GOP incumbent Brandon Steele.

Republican incumbent Christopher Toney is in the race in District 43.

Democrat Tony Martin and Republican Carl Roop have filed in the 44th District. Incumbent Republican Todd Kirby has not yet filed.

Eric Brooks, an incumbent Republican, is signed up in District 45. GOP incumbent Jeff Campbell has filed in the 46th.

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Republican incumbent George Ambler is on the District 47 ballot. Also running there are former Delegate Ray Canterbury and Stephen Snyder, both Republicans.

Thomas Clark, a Republican recently appointed, and Devin Spinks, a Democrat, are on the ballot in the 48th.

Incumbent Republican Heather Tully is on the District 49 ballot. GOP incumbent Elliot Pritt has filed in the 50th.

In District 51, Perennial Republican candidate Dan Hill is running.

GOP candidate Gregory Ingram, the Mayor of Montgomery, has filed in the 52nd.

Democrat incumbent Larry Rowe has not filed and has told some he is retiring.

Republican Terry Burns has filed in 53 as has Tristan Leavitt, also a member of the GOP.

Incumbent Republican Chris Pritt has toyed with running for statewide office but had yet to file for anything.

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Incumbent Kanawha County Democrat Mike Pushkin is running for re-election to the 54th District. He is also State Party Chair.

Recently appointed Republican JB Akers has filed in the 55th. That is the seat formerly held by current gubernatorial candidate Moore Capito.

Incumbent Democrat Kayla Young is signed up in District 56. Republican incumbent Walter Hall of St. Albans has filed in 58.

GOP incumbent Andy Shamblin is running in District 59. 

In the 60th District, incumbent Republican Dana Ferrell is on the ballot. Republican incumbent Dean Jeffries has filed in 61.

Republican House Speaker Delegate Roger Hanshaw has filed in the 62nd District.

In 63, incumbent Republican Lori Dittman is running. Republican incumbent Adam Burkhammer has filed in the 64th.

Filing in the 65th is GOP incumbent Carl Martin. 

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Republican Jonathan Kyle is on the ballot in District 66. Ty Nestor, a Republican, is the incumbent.

Incumbent Republican  Ryan Coop-Gonzalez is on the 67th District ballot. In 68, GOP incumbent Chris Phillips is running.

Republican Keith Marple has filed in the 69th District.

Republican incumbent  Mickey Petitto is on the ballot in District 70. Another GOP incumbent, Laura Kimble has filed in the 71st District.

Republican incumbent Clay Riley has signed up in District 72. GOP Taylor County Chair Fred Guidi is running in the 73rd. Delegate Amy Summers announced her retirement last year.

Republican incumbent Michael DeVault is running in the 74th District.

District 75 incumbent Republican Delegate Phil Mallow has filed.

Republican Toby Heaney is running in the 76th where Democrat Joey Garcia is the incumbent.

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Incumbent Republican Joe Statler has filed in District 77. Geno Chiarelli, the GOP incumbent, is running in 78.

Democrat incumbent Evan Hansen is on the ballot in the 79th District. In 80, incumbent Democrat John Williams has filed. Republican Summer Hartley is also on the ballot in the 80th.

Democrat incumbent Anitra Hamilton has filed in the 81st District. GOP incumbent George Street is running in 83.

Republican incumbent  D.R. “Buck” Jennings has filed in the 84th.

Republican incumbent John Paul Hott II is on the ballot in District 85 along with fellow GOP candidate Anthony Prato.

Bryan Ward, an incumbent Republican, has filed in the 86th District.

Republican incumbent Gary Howell is on the ballot in 87.

Rick Hillenbrand, a GOP incumbent, has filed in the 88th District. Incumbent Republican Rick Thorne has signed up in 89.

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Republican incumbent George Miller is running in the 90th. In the 91st, incumbent Republican Don Forsht has filed.

Republican incumbent Michael Hite has filed in District 92. Incumbent Republican Mike Hornby is running in the 93rd. GOP incumbent Larry D. Kump is signed up in District 94. Ninety-fifth District Republican incumbent Charles Horst has filed. 

Incumbent Republican Delegate Eric Householder of the 96th is running for State Auditor.

GOP candidate Chris Anders is on the ballot in 97.

Two Republicans have filed in District 99. They are Mike Allers and incumbent Wayne Clark. 

Republican incumbent William Ridenour has filed in District 100.

Tune in next time for more.

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

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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.