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Gregory’s Web – February 11, 2024

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If one wants to see an example of the turmoil of newly-powerful West Virginia Republicans, the current place to go might be Lincoln County.

I’ll first assure you that we don’t have the space here to fully explain the up-to-date Lincoln political atmosphere.

I could preface the narrative as “just Lincoln County politics as usual.”

Of course, it’s not. Now, for the first time in 100 years, Republicans control most Lincoln elected offices. Democrats ran the show for a century.

The short of it is that Lincoln County Clerk, Republican Kristy Scraggs along with three others were arrested for child abuse last week.

The arrests, which really saw the defendants turn themselves in at the Hamlin courthouse, were the result of an apparent months-long “investigation” by Sheriff Gary “Butch* Linville.

The Sheriff, like Scraggs, is a Republican.

However, Linville has evidently been a member of the GOP longer than Scraggs.

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Linville claims the distinction of breaking the Democrat stranglehold on Lincoln elected offices. He was first elected Sheriff in the Trump year of 2016.

In fact, Linville followed that up in 2020 (another Trump year) by earning a second term as Sheriff.

Somewhere in this time frame, while more and more Democrats were re-registering Republican, the Lincoln Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) was formed.

Many Lincoln Republicans, both old and new, joined and/or identified with this PAC.

More Republicans, generally newbies, were elected to courthouse positions in 2022 and all seemed right with the GOP-led world.

This idyllic Republican creation did not last long.

Whispers became murmurs that led to statements and then some limited personal confrontations.

To be honest, the Lincoln Sheriff has been an enigma to me.

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Outwardly friendly, he nevertheless has avoided me for seven years.

I recognize that many highly-educated, morally high-level people avoid me out of sheer disgust with my penchant for simply saying what I think.

Sheriff Linville has few of the qualities my usual enemies have.

My first conclusion about the “child abuse” is that things went off the deep end when Linville decided to single handedly “investigate” the October 2023 walk off of a 16-month-old from a Hamlin daycare center co-owned by Scraggs.

Linville called the episode an “escape” although my sources say a daycare employee spotted the child and caught up to him/her before he/she made it as far as the 7-11 located next to the Miles of Smiles Kidz Daycare owned by Scraggs and Haroldene Keener.

There is apparently no evidence that this “escape” was any more than an isolated incident.

As one Scraggs supporter told me, “I’ve never heard that the child was actually injured or anything else.” Neither have I.

Apparently, the child was outside and wandered away before being quickly seen and fetched back to the daycare center.

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As both I and Scraggs supporters I talked with recognize, the incident was serious.

It was a matter that likely needed professional investigation. Documents show that daycare center management followed proper procedures in reporting the incident.

If the owners of the facility were really negligent, they need charged with criminal activity; where was Child Protective Services in all this?

What about the State Police? Hamlin has at least one policeman. This happened inside Hamlin city limits. Did their officer join the investigation?

The case defomitely deserved some professional investigation.

Maybe one or more employees deserved discipline. Perhaps they were reprimanded, for all we know. It’s a private business, after all.

Having dealt with Sheriff Linville, I have serious doubt that he conducted a professional investigation. I have strong reservations that he could conduct a professional investigation if he wanted to.

What I believe we have here is a power-crazed Sheriff/politician who sees Kristy Scraggs and her supporters as some kind of threat to his royal reign.

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Linville, as I mentioned, is finishing his second consecutive term. He is term-limited, so he is running for Magistrate.

The position the Sheriff is seeking had been occupied by Magistrate Kim Lovejoy Clayton until she recently resigned.

Kim Clayton, a longtime Lincoln coach and administrator, is the wife of GOP Sheriff candidate Dan Clayton.

In her letter of resignation, Clayton said she earlier asked the Sheriff for protection since she feared for her life and safety. He refused her request.

Republican Circuit Clerk Brian Graley is Dan Clayton’s primary opponent.

Clearer now?

I didn’t think so.

The Lincoln “wisdom,” if it can be called that, is that Linville wants to stamp out any potential threat within the GOP.

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Scraggs, according to some, is a perceived threat. That means she needs silenced in this election before she gets completely out of hand.

I know Scraggs as a complete straight shooter. She has always been efficient and professional in my dealings with her.

Note to Linville: Scraggs has always answered or called me back, even when she knew she wouldn’t like the questions I was asking.

So it isn’t just Biden Democrats who know how to use the court system to their political advantage.

Lincoln County Republicans have mastered the system as well.

There’s no doubt I have left gaps in this developing storyline. Suffice it to say we’ll keep a sharp eye on developments in Hamlin to see what happens next.

For now, let’s say this: law enforcement officers should not be involved in petty politics.

Scraggs’ is an example of one who does not deserve damage to her reputation at the hands of political “justice.”

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For decades, Democrats ruled the political roost in Lincoln County.

My days at The Lincoln Journal occurred while the roosters were divided into the “Stowers faction” and the “Jackson faction.”

The late Wylie Stowers and later his son, the late Lyle Stowers, controlled that group. 

The late State Senator Lloyd Jackson ruled their namesake organization followed by his son, Lloyd Jackson II, who also served in the State Senate.

Those two factions seldom forgot that, at the heart of things, they were always Democrats. 

Thus, it was not at all unusual to see the Jackson forces and the Stowerses battle it out in the primary and then unite behind the winning Democrat in the fall.

Since Republicans now want to rule the county with their iron fist, it might be wise to take a page from the Democrat winning manual and join hands occasionally.

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Perhaps now wouldn’t be too soon.

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For anyone who cares to know, I’d vote for Dan Clayton for Lincoln Sheriff and Josh Stowers for another term as a County Commissioner if I voted there. 

Lincoln is fortunate to be served by those two as well as County Commissioner Phoebe Harless.

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Speaking of good fortune, the folks of Lincoln are indeed blessed to have Republican Jeff Eldridge in the race for the House of Delegates.

Eldridge, of course, has prior legislative experience and is just an all-round good guy. Originally from my adopted hometown of Harts, he now resides in Alum Creek.

The incumbent in that district, the aptly nicknamed David “Flimsy” Adkins is an embarrassment to the county.

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Adkins should stay on as Mayor/Police Chief/Court Jester of Hamlin and remain far away from the statehouse.

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It’s often less difficult to fault legislative Republicans for their slips from party dogma than other GOP officials.

As you’ve heard before, though, here we go again.

First off, I’ve advocated for years that the statue of the late Democrat United States Senator Robert C. Byrd should be removed from the capitol rotunda if progressives are ever able to remove the statues of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson from inside and outside on the capitol grounds.

I still firmly believe that. If Jackson is to be dishonored because he was a loyal Virginian, then Ku Klux Klan leader Byrd must go as well.

I understand that Byrd was the “champion of pork,” bringing billions in federal funding to the state. 

I realize that the statue commemorates Byrd being named *West Virginian of the Century.” 

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I know Byrd was revered by thousands of West Virginians.

I also clearly understand that he was a KKK recruiter. 

Jackson, on the other hand, was not a slave owner although many of his fellow West Virginians were. He and his wife taught dozens of young African-Americans how to read and write while in Lexington, Virginia.

The bill introduced this year by Republican legislators would replace Byrd with statues of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, James Madison and Arthur Boreman.

The lead sponsor of SB733 is Wood County Republican Senator

Mike Azinger. Other sponsors are Kanawha Senator Mike Stuart, Taylor’s Jay Taylor and Jack Woodrum of Summers County.

While I have constantly stood opposed to the helter-skelter removal of historic statues, I am absolutely against just erecting statues on political whims.

I’ve lectured many times that while I can understand the temptation to honor Lincoln because he signed the (illegal) bill declaring West Virginia statehood, he is also the person single-most responsible for destroying the principle of states’ rights.

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Republicans have forever maintained that they believe in the states’ rights doctrine.

So why honor the man who defied and destroyed that concept forever?

George Washington? There are enough George Washington statues to make his  First Lady Martha ill. Why one more?

Then James Madison? While there are also plenty of statuary tributes to him, what particular significance has he to West Virginia? We definitely were bona fide Virginians when old James was President..

Finally, there’s Arthur Boreman. Okay. First elected Governor of the illegitimate state of West Virginia. I suppose his likeness would be less offensive than the others because he, basically, didn’t do much.

I still come back to Lincoln. Tell me you’re a card-carrying Republican who believes in states’ rights and you want to honor Abraham Lincoln. 

That’s simply a contradiction in terms.

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I enjoyed a great chat with an outstanding public servant last week. They get no more honest, dedicated and transparent than Logan County Clerk John Turner.

Logan is another of those Southern coalfield counties where Republicans are now running the show.

For County Commissioner, Republican Eric Porter is facing Democrat Bobby Boehm.

Incumbent Commissioner Danny Godby is stepping down. Logan and the world are losing the services of a great public servant. They broke the honorable and moral mold when Godby was made.

He will be sincerely missed.

Republican Sheriff Paul “PD” Clemens is running unopposed.

Republican incumbent Prosecutor David Wandling has primary opposition from Joe Spradling.

We’ve discussed before that Logan is now combined with Mingo County in a three-judge district.

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In Division One, from which Mingo’s one judge must come, the best choice is current Family Court Judge Sabrina Adkins. She is fair, honest and dedicated.

There are two others running in that division. One is the (Dis) Honorable Miki Thompson, current Mingo Circuit Judge and Williamson attorney Robert Carlton.

Incumbent Logan Judge Kelly Codispoti is unopposed in Division Two. Incumbent Logan Judge Joshua Butcher will square off against Shana O’Briant Thompson in Division Three .

This Thompson is the daughter of retired legendary Judge Eric O’Briant. She is the favorite to win that seat.

For Magistrate, in Division One, incumbent David Adkins will be challenged by Charlie Walls.

Division Two finds incumbent Dwight Williamson meeting Gregory Vance.

In Divisions Three and Four, incumbent Joe Mendez and Harold Ray Porter Jr., respectively, are unopposed.

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Incumbent Republican Assessor Glen “Houn’Dog” Adkins is seeking re-election. He will meet Chris Trent in the primary.

Adkins is a recent convert to Republicanism while Trent has been a GOP activist for some time.

Adkins is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world.

Legend has it that a smart aleck reporter once asked “Houn’Dog,” then County Clerk, why he spent so much time in the woods.

“‘Cause I see lots of my voters out there,” he replied without hesitation.

The best pig roast you ever ate cooked by Adkins and topped with his wife’s homemade sauce.

There’s nothing like it.

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Nothing like “Houn’Dog” either.

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.