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Gregory’s Web – January 28, 2024

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“Who needs California when you’ve got West Virginia?”

That’s a question posed recently by Blaze Media’s Daniel Horowitz.

While I often disagree with both Horowitz and the far right Blaze Media’s Glen Beck, I think Horowitz makes total sense in his column about the “conservative” Republican West Virginia Legislature. 

The writer looks directly toward Senate Bill 412 as an example of his point that West Virginia “conservative” lawmakers are not far removed from their counterparts, the “liberal” California Democrats.

He begins his study by saying, “Imagine seeing untold numbers of people die from the COVID vaccines. Picture hospitals refusing people organ transplants unless patients get the shot. Envision thousands of armed services members drummed out of the military for refusing the jab.”

“And knowing all of that, then conclude that the state should make it even more difficult for people to be exempted from vaccine mandates.”

“My, my” as my grandmother always said. “That’s as dumb as Clark Sleeth.”

(Here’s hoping Sleeth was a fictional name Grandma invented).

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Horowitz goes on to argue that the aforementioned bill goes a long way in proving his point.

The author notes that it is the Republican Senate Majority Leader whose bill sets up all these scenarios. For those who don’t follow the annual circus known as the Legislature, the Senate Majority Leader is Kanawha County Senator Tom Takubo.

The bill, according to Horowitz,“would make it more difficult for doctors to give their patients medical exemptions from vaccine mandates.” That’s the long and the short of it.

The author goes on, “The state’s motto might be ‘Mountaineers are always free,’ but if they don’t change the type of Republicans they elect this year, mountaineers will always be controlled.”

Pointing out that the GOP maintains supermajorities in both the House of Delegates and State Senate, Horowitz adds, “not only has GOP leadership blocked any meaningful attempt to reform the state’s emergency powers and vaccine and mask mandates that Governor Jim Justice wielded at the height of the pandemic, Republicans now want to expand state vaccine mandates.”

He is expressing the same disbelief most of us had when COVID broke out.

Many of us had heard from Republican legislative candidates over the years about what “patriots” dedicated to the “cause of liberty” they all were.

Confronted by a once-Democrat Governor, we figured the GOP would stick to its liberty-loving gloves on mandates from the chief executive. 

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We were wrong.

In a nutshell, they failed us miserably.

The outside world was largely blocked from view as some citizens took “stay at home” mandates as orders from the Almighty.

Indeed, many thought it would not be just their thoughts but their political careers that would be dead if they failed to follow the Governor’s directives.

Each week for months I was confronted by the laundromat lady who admonished me for allowing my mask to slip under my nose. She honestly believed I was trying to kill people with malice aforethought.

Living the American Dream became a repeated scary episode from “The Twilight Zone.”

Even though almost any legislator, if asked about it, would vow to fight the restrictions on freedom, he or she would not stand on the floor of the Legislature and do a damn thing to stop them. This went on for weeks that became months and years.

In fact, many are still “working from home” and wearing their masks in terror.

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All at once restriction-fighting legislators suddenly became converts to the advice of “stick with the team” philosophies.

If I heard that “team” nonsense from one GOP legislator, I heard it from 50.

Now, Tabuko, who is also an Osteopathic Doctor (DO), and others who wouldn’t recognize a free society if it bit them on the rear, want to make it tougher to be exempted from continuous COVID shots.

Justice is running for election to the United States Senate. In the legislature, 117 seats are open.

Don’t take Horowitz’s word for it or mine. This bill is an insult to freedom-loving citizens.

Demand “no” votes on Senate Bill 412 and let these patriot Republicans know you’re watching what they do.

Let’s not be “team members” but instead demand accountability from the “patriots” under the dome.

* * * * * *

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In the quiet of a Thursday afternoon, Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper filed for re-election last week.

A relic of a time not too long ago, Carper still represents a dying political movement. He is, believe it or not, remaining a Democrat in West Virginia. Those are a rare species in the Mountain State.

That reminds me of the old story about the Virginia farmer, who lived in the days when only Democrats were being elected in the Old Dominion.

A reporter approached the farmer and asked if he was “still a Republican?”

With a slight pause, the farmer replied, “Yes – and very still about it.”

After I made complimentary comments here recently, word swept my internet that I “support” Carper.

All I had done then was what I intend to do now: tell the truth about the man.

He’s a strong individual with great leadership skills. He can be bombastic when the situation warrants it. Likewise, he is the voice of compassion and concern when that’s required.

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Since he’s running for another six-year term, this is no time for a list of his many accomplishments. We don’t have room for that here anyway.

What I will say is that, on a balanced scale, Kent Carper has been a loyal servant and a force for good in Kanawha County and West Virginia.

Let the race begin.

* * * * * *

It became obvious when state Republicans met for their winter meeting this past weekend that the movers and shakers wanting to close the GOP Primary were Patrick Morrisey and his fellow carpetbagger friend, Alex Mooney.

These two and their genius cronies wanted to allow only registered Republicans to vote in the 2024 GOP Primary.

Attorney General Morrisey and Congressman Mooney do not poll well with independent voters.

So, rather than broaden the appeal of non-Republicans for the entire GOP ticket, the formerly out-of-state officeholders selfishly attempted to exclude anyone but registered Republicans from voting in their primary.

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Preposterous.

It’s the perfect example that those two are only concerned for themselves, not the good of the party.

Clearly, if Morrisey running for Governor and Mooney campaigning for U.S. Senate could prohibit unaffiliated citizens from voting in the GOP Primary, their vote percentages would soar.

Thankfully, the committee was not supportive of their disastrous idea. The 2024 Primary will remain open to all Republican and unaffiliated voters in the state.

* * * * * * 

The message from Mooney and Morrisey is clear. Obviously, they don’t want independents to vote for either of them in the Primary – or, by extension, the General.

* * * * * *

It was incredible to see the far right politicos justify kicking independents to the curb for their private primary.

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Listen to Delegate Jim Butler, who advocated for a strictly closed 2024 primary, “We also would like to invite all voters to switch to the Republican Party now and certainly before 2026 so they can continue to help us implement great public policies for everyone in West Virginia.”

Okay. Follow me on this. Butler and his ilk want to keep independents out of voting in their Primary but “expect” those same shunned voters to join the GOP in winning General elections? Oh come now.

* * * * * *

Republican Kanawha County Commission candidate Chris Walters also did a great job earlier in the State Senate. He set sail in the right direction on upgrading internet services and bringing the state into the Twenty-first Century.

His father, former Delegate Ron Walters, is a favorite of mine as well.

Then there’s Natalie Tennant, the former Secretary of State, now running as a Democrat for the County Commission. I once endorsed Tennant for the United States Senate.

Not one but two Democrats on the same ballot? Hmmn.

* * * * * *

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Former Massey CEO Don Blankenship’s entry into the current U.S. Senate race as a Democrat will liven things up.

Governor Jim Justice, the presumptive Republican nominee, is in for a “different kind of cat” as Blankenship goes after him.

In announcing his candidacy, Blankenship promised to “stop (government) supporting policy which is advanced by west coast freaks and DC crazies.”

At least he’s identified the nuts in our midst.

Blankenship will likely be the Democrat nominee. Spread that tent wider, Democrat State Chair Michael Pushkin; make room for Don Blankenship.

* * * * * *

Now that the 2024 filing deadline has passed (except for Huntington’s January 31 date), we are going to dissect the many races before us.

This will take some time, so please be patient. The volume is so huge, you will now begin seeing two columns a week to get it done in a timely manner.

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One column will remain on Sunday with the other being out at midweek. We will run down all contests as quickly as we possibly can.

Despite anything you might guess, I am not trying to write the “great American novel” right here. We just want to cover it all.

* * * * * *

I mentioned in an earlier column that a large number of judicial positions are being contested this year.

The realignment of the state’s judicial circuits may have contributed to some of the races.

Circuit judges serve eight-year terms and run on a non-partisan (wink-wink) basis.

There are 30 judicial circuits with a total of 80 circuit judges.

Let’s look at these contests first as we begin our journey. Filing is updated through midnight, Saturday evening. Mailed applications postmarked before that time will also be accepted.

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The First Circuit includes Ohio, Hancock and Brooke counties.

There, incumbents Jason Cuomo, Michael Olejasz, David Sims and Ronald Wilson all filed.

Only Wilson has a challenger. Joseph Barki has filed in the Judge’s Division One.

In the Second Circuit that includes Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties, incumbents C. Richard Wilson and Jeffrey Cramer have filed.

In the Third Circuit (Pleasants, Ritchie, Doddridge and Wirt counties) incumbent Timothy Sweeney has filed for re-election in Division One. Leslie Maze, Samuel Rogers II and Scott Wolfe have filed for the new Division Two.

Wood County is the  Fourth Circuit. There, only incumbents J.D. Beane, Robert “Bob” Waters and Jason A. Wharton are running.

The Fifth Circuit is made up of Jackson, Mason, Calhoun and Roane counties.

In that circuit,  incumbents Anita Harold Ashley, Lora Dyer and Richard Tatterson filed. Roane Prosecutor Joshua Downey has filed for Ashley’s Division Three seat.

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As an aside, I’m an Ashley fan. She is fair and impeccably honest. Plus, her hometown is Glenville, WV, USA.

Judge Dyer is an outstanding jurist who should be on the Supreme Court. 

In the Sixth Circuit, which is Cabell County, incumbents Paul T. Farrell, Sean “Corky” Hammers and Greg Howard have filed. 

Eleni Miller is challenging Hammers, who is freshly appointed and is a former Cabell Prosecutor.

Incumbent Judge Alfred E. Ferguson had announced his retirement earlier.

Former House Delegate Chad Lovejoy has filed for that seat. As I wrote weeks ago, we could not hope for better than Lovejoy. He was a great Delegate and he’ll be a great Judge.

Putnam County makes up the Seventh Circuit. Incumbents Phillip Stowers and Joe Reeder are seeking re-election. Hurricane attorney Jon D. Hoover has filed as a challenger for Stowers’ seat.

In Kanawha County’s Eighth Circuit, all seven of the incumbent judges – even new appointees – are running for re-election.

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That means voters will see Stephanie Abraham, Maryclaire Akers, Jennifer Bailey, Ken Ballard, Dave Hardy, Tera Salango and Carrie Webster’s names on the ballot. Intermediate Court of Appeals Deputy Clerk Ashley Deem has filed to challenge Bailey in Division Five. Former Kanawha Democrat House of Delegates member Richard Lindsay has filed for the new Division Eight position created this year.

In the Ninth Circuit serving Boone and Lincoln counties, incumbents Jay Hoke and Stacy Nowicki-Eldridge have filed.

Wayne County is the Tenth Circuit. In that one, incumbents Jason Fry and James Young Jr. have filed.

The Tenth Circuit combines Logan and Mingo counties. Incumbents Kelly Codispoti, Joshua Butcher and Miki Thompson are running. 

Mingo Family Court Judge Sabrina Deskins is stepping down from Family Court to run in this circuit, where two judges must reside in Logan and one in Mingo. She will be taking on Thompson as well as Williamson attorney Robert Carlton.

This is another no-brainer at this point. Deskins is the superior candidate. Logan, where she is greatly admired for her service in the Prosecutor’s office and her native Mingo will unite behind her.

In the Twelfth Circuit (McDowell and Wyoming counties), incumbent Rick Murensky is running in District One. He will be facing Clayton Patterson and H.C. Lewis IV.

Joshua Thompson and Josh Miller filed for the second seat. Incumbents Edward Kornish and Michael Cochrane had not filed as of Saturday.

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In Mercer County’s Thirteenth Circuit, incumbents William Sadler and Mark Wills filed. 

Ryan Flanigan, Kelli Harshbarger and Derrick Lefler are all running for the Division One seat.

Raleigh County is the Fourteenth Circuit. There, incumbents Andy Dimlich and Darl Poling have both filed. 

Todd Kirby is on the ballot against Poling. Marie Bechtel, Daniel Burns, Michael Froble and Russell “Rusty” Wooton are running in Division Two. 

Incumbents Robert A. Burnside Jr. and H.L. Kirkpatrick II have not yet filed.

The Fifteenth Circuit is Fayette County, where incumbent Thomas Ewing has filed. Tom Fast is on the ballot for the other seat along with Kathleen Murphy.

In Nicholas County’s Sixteenth Circuit, incumbent Stephen O. Callaghan, who was ordered to sit out two years of his current term for an election law violation, is running. Michael Cox, E. Scott Stanton and Gregory Tucker have filed for the newly-created second seat.

The Seventeenth Circuit covers Clay, Braxton, Gilmer and Webster counties.

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Mike Asbury and Jasmine Morton have filed for the two seats. Incumbents Jack Alsop and Michael Asbury have not yet filed. Sources said Alsop is retiring.

The Eighteenth Circuit is composed of Lewis and Upshur counties. There, incumbents Kurt Hall and Jake Reger have filed.

In Harrison County’s Nineteenth Circuit, Chris McCarthy has filed in Division One. Ryan Kennedy, Zach Dyer and Joe Shaffer have filed for the Division Two seat and Jenna Robey has filed for Division Three. Incumbents Thomas Bedell and James A. Matish have not yet filed.

Marion County’s Twentieth Circuit incumbent Patrick Wilson is running in Division One. 

Matt Delligatti, Craig Erhard and Chuck Shields filed for the second seat. Incumbent David R. Janes had not yet filed.

The Twenty-first Circuit is Monongalia County. In it, incumbents Perri Jo DeChristopher, Paul Gwaltney and Cindy Scott are running. Michael Simms has filed for Gwaltney’s seat.

Preston and Tucker counties make up the Twenty-second Circuit. There, incumbent Steven Shaffer has filed. Hillary Bright and Samuel Hess have filed for the second seat.

The Twenty-third Circuit is comprised of Barbour and Taylor counties.

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Incumbents Thomas Hoxie and Shawn Nines are running. Allison Clark Iapalucci has filed as a candidate for Hoxie’s seat.

In Randolph County’s Twenty-fourth Circuit, incumbent David Wilmoth is running. Frank Bush Jr, Ray LaMora III, William “Ty” Nestor and Jaymie Wilfong have filed for the new second seat.

Grant and Mineral counties make up the Twenty-fifth Circuit.

Incumbents James Courier Jr. and Robert Ryan have filed. 

Nic James, Cody Pancake and Jason Sites are running for Ryan’s First Division seat.

The Twenty-sixth Circuit is made up of Hampshire, Hardy and Pendleton counties.

There, incumbents H. Charles Carl III and C. Carter Williams have filed. John Treadway Jr. has filed to challenge Williams.

The Twenty-seventh Circuit serves Berkeley and Morgan counties.

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Filing there are incumbents Laura Faircloth and Michael Lorensen. Catie Wilkes Delligatti, Debra McLaughlin and R. Steven Redding have filed for the remaining three seats.

Jefferson County’s Twenty-eighth Circuit finds incumbents Bridget Cohee and David Hammer having filed.

The Twenty-ninth Circuit encompasses Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties. There, incumbent Robert Richardson has filed. Incumbent Jennifer P. Dent has not yet filed. 

Ryan Blake has filed for Richardson’s seat and Patrick Via filed for the other position.

In the Thirtieth Circuit that is made up of Monroe and Summers counties, Kristin Cook, Keith Lively and H. “Rod” Mohler have filed for the single judgeship. Incumbent Robert A. Irons had not filed.

I have the utmost respect for Mohler, whose family has long been associated with the local Monroe Watchman newspaper.

Rod Mohler was a fair but tough Monroe County Prosecutor. He’d be a great choice to replace the legendary Judge Irons.

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

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  • 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.