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Gregory’s Web – March 3, 2024

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Any longtime political observer is surely fascinated to see the turnaround of West Virginia from a solidly Democrat state to Republican.

I would never have believed it could happen and I continue to think it would not have except for the rise of President Donald Trump.

All the political kings’ men and all of their horses could not have managed to turn the state solid red without Trump. 

State and local GOP officials busily patting themselves on the back because of the party’s rise often intentionally overlook Trump’s ability to influence Mountain State voters. Without the ex-President, I’m confident Democrats would still be in charge in Charleston. There would not be a Republican legislative majority, much less a supermajority.

There are, of course, numerous Democrats who helped with their own demise. Those who foolishly remained in lockstep with the Chuck Shumers and Bernie Sanders of the world hastened the Republican dominance as well.

Easier access for abortions and elimination of gun ownership do not win over many new voters to the Democrats here.

Mountain State voters never were flaming liberals to begin with. Still, it took someone as blunt spoken and bold as Trump to identify with their basic conservative credentials.

State Democrats, such as United States Senator Joe Manchin, chumming it up with coal haters like Hillary Clinton, did not help the blue state cause either.

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Each month, Secretary of State Mac Warner produces a chart with voters’ registration numbers broken down by county. There’s definitely entertainment value in watching counties and the state gradually turn solidly red Republican.

Who could have guessed, ten years ago, that a county like Boone would have 5,987 Democrats; 4,185 Republicans and 2,681 No Party voters?

While Democrats still lead in Boone, it isn’t 70-30% as it once was. 

The old joke about Boone Republicans holding their meetings in a payphone booth to accommodate the “crowd” was clearly accurate. Now, there are no phone booths for Democrats to wiggle into.

Beside all that, the rule of thumb for decades has been that one can safely add No Party to the Republican numbers. Most often, those folks vote conservative Republican.

Thus, the Boone GOP realistically now has a 900-vote advantage. That’s why seasoned politicos will tell you that you now must be a Republican to be elected in this state.

At the end of January, there were 469,995 Republicans; 365,224 Democrats; and 287,229 No Party in the state. That’s quite a turnaround in just a short time.

In addition, the tally sheet shows 10,720 Libertarians; 2,491 Mountain Party; and 38,040 “Other” party members on the statewide rolls.

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Cabell County is Republican in raw numbers. There, 21,368 are registered GOP; 19,796 Democrat and 12,852 No Party. When the Libertarians, No Party and all groups are added in, Cabell has a total of 55,905 registered voters.

The state’s largest county, Kanawha, is creeping closer and closer to a Republican plurality as well.

The capital county has 43,224 Democrats; 41,590 Republicans; and 29,830 No Party to give the GOP candidates some breathing room. The total registration is 118,233.

Those new Kanawha numbers are why I think many political observers are wrong when they say Kanawha is bucking the GOP trend. It’s quite possible that 2024 could be the year Republicans finally break into the “across-the-board winners” category in the county.

Incumbent Democrats, such as my friend Assessor Sallie Robinson, will find themselves in much tougher races this November than before.

There are 4,661 Democrats; 4,166 Republicans and 2,835 No Party registrants in Lincoln County.

Despite that Democrat margin of almost 500 devotees, Lincoln’s courthouse and other offices are presently controlled by Republicans.

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Total voters in Lincoln are 12,254.

There are still 10,155 registered Democrats in Logan County with just 5,798 Republicans and 2,835 No Partiers. 

Yet that courthouse is likewise turning redder every day with 22,274 total registrations.

Mingo is similar to Logan. There are 7,848 Democrats; 4,689 Republicans; and 2204 No Party. The overall total is 16,914.

In Williamson as well, the offices are going to the GOP which likely eventually will be confirmed as a Republican majority.

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We’ll pick up where we left off last time in the statewide House of Delegates races.

District 16 features Republican Randy Halstead, a Jackson County businessman. Trey Jones and Frederick “Happy Joe” Parsons, both Republicans, are also in the race.

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Incumbent Republican Steve Westfall is not seeking re-election in the 16th. 

Jonathan Pinson, the GOP incumbent, has filed for re-election in the 17th. He’s being challenged by Adam Roush in the GOP primary.

Incumbent Republican Jim Butler wants to go back to Charleston from District 18. He’s unopposed in the primary but will face Democrat Andrea Meadows in the general.

It is Butler who showed no long-term loyalty to Johnnie Wamsley II, the candidate he recruited and helped elect to his seat in 2020.

That was when Butler ran and lost in the GOP State Senate primary to Amy Nicole Grady. Until January 2021, it had been the seat of then-Senate President Mitch Carmichael.

Butler came back in 2022 and defeated Wamsley to return to the House.

Incumbent Republican Kathie Hess Crouse will square off against Debbie Deweese in the 19th District primary.

That may be seen as a contest between the two factions of Putnam Republican Women.

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It is safe to say the two are not best friends.

District 20 features Republican Sarah Drennan taking on Jacob Losh in the primary.

The winner meets Democrat Steve Patrick, who is unopposed on the Democrat side.

This is the seat now held by Republican Geoff Foster, who is not running for re-election. Rumors had circulated before the filing period that Delegate Foster would be moving out-of-state when his term ended.

In the 21st District, incumbent Republican Jarred Cannon will meet Democrat Michael Mosteller II. Both are unopposed in the primary.

Featured in the 22nd District are Republican challenger Aaron Holley meeting GOP incumbent Daniel Linville.

I’ve often pointed out that Linville is one of the brightest officials under the dome. He also works hard. That’s a good combination.

Holley is active in the community. Along that line, he’s the public address announcer for Cabell-Midland High School football.

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I expect both candidates will wage clean, aggressive campaigns although Linville is the clear favorite.

There are no Democrats running in 22.

District 23 features GOP incumbent Evan Worrell. He’ll be going up against Democrat Amanda Beach-Burge in November since both are without primary opposition.

Looking at the 24th District, we find incumbent Republican Patrick Lucas running unopposed in the May primary.

Democrat Billy Wray has no primary challenger and will face Lucas in November.

District 25 has Republican Connie Beaty, unopposed on May 14. 

She will face incumbent Democrat Sean Hornbuckle in the general election.

Even with the growing Republican dominance, Hornbuckle will be an easy winner in November.

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Incumbent Republican Matthew Rohrbach is unopposed in the District 26 primary. No Democrat filed.

The 27th District features Republicans Michael Amos and Jeff Maynard. Libertarian Craig Carpenter II is in the race. Democrat Gina Milum is also running.

The seat is currently filled by Democrat Ric Griffith. He is running for the State Senate this year. 

Griffith hopes to hold the Senate seat occupied by long-serving Senator Bob Plymale, who is retiring.

The 28th District finds Republicans Samantha Stevens of Wayne, Jason Stephens of Huntington and Ryan Browning of Kenova squaring off for the GOP nomination.

There are no Democrats running.

Incumbent District 28 Republican Delegate Mark Ross is not seeking re-election.

He is perhaps best known for thwarting a 2022 home invasion of his daughter’s residence after he became a Delegate.

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When appointed, Ross replaced Republican Delegate and former Political Prisoner Derrick Evans. 

Evans, now running for Congress, abruptly resigned his House seat after being charged in the January 6, 2021 rally at the capitol in Washington.

Incumbent Republican Henry C. Dillon has both a primary and potential Democrat opponent in the 29th District.

In the primary, the far right Delegate faces Nate Randolph. The Democrat candidate is Wayne Bug Williamson from Kermit.

Dillon raised the ire of many who accused him of being negative toward Marshall University. Clearly, the school has widespread support in his district.

Dillon supporters have said he does not agree with the policies of MU President Brad Smith, who they describe as a “far left liberal.”

In District 30, Republican incumbent David “Flimsy” Adkins faces primary opposition from former Delegate Jeff Eldridge. 

The challenger is a former resident of Harts and now lives in  Alum Creek. He graduated from the former Harts High School.

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Earlier, Eldridge was a great representative for the coalfield counties. He will do the job again.

Adkins surely needs help finding the capitol building in his Hamlin Town Police car.

Our listing will continue next time.

* * * * * *

As is usually the case in Mingo County politics, rumors have swirled about Republican Deputy Mingo County Clerk Bethany Goad-Cisco.

As is also normal, most of the gossip is not true.

Making the recent rounds were accusations that Goad-Cisco works two government jobs. That is supposedly improper and cause to vote for her opponent, the close friend of disgraced former Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury.

The Deputy Clerk, who nearly unseated the County Clerk, Larry “Yogi” Croaff two years ago, is running for Assessor with her boss’s support this time.

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In any event, Goad-Cisco is known for her honesty and pleasant personality. She is also quite transparent. To that end, she volunteered a copy of a letter she received from the State Ethics Commission.

Actually, Goad-Cisco initially asked the Ethics officials if her present position casts any questions from a legal standpoint.

Her direct question was whether she could earn benefits such as annual leave from more than one government entity.

She explained that she is a full-time Deputy Mingo Clerk who also occasionally does some Mingo Board of Education work on a part-time basis.

The response from Ethics Staff Attorney John E. Roush quickly puts to rest the gossip that Goad-Cisco cannot work two government jobs.

“The WV Ethics Act does not prohibit employment with more than one government agency,” Crouse wrote.

The lawyer then noted 

that the law does logically prohibit “double dipping,” meaning the employee cannot claim to be working at more than one agency at a time.

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Goad-Cisco has never done that, and there are no allegations that she ever has. 

Still, Roush notes that there are provisions in the law that authorize an employee being paid by two agencies for the same time period.

For example, an exception to that rule can be made if the employee uses annual leave from one employer while working for the other.

So, the answer to Goad-Cisco’s question as to working two government jobs is clearly that she can, according to Roush.

Will that put an end to rumors and innuendo? Of course not. This is, after all, politics.

By the way, Goad-Cisco will make a great Assessor. 

The election of Audrey Smith would pave the road for Judge Thornsbury’s return to courthouse control.

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The first Ashley Deem for Kanawha Circuit Judge billboard has gone up in Charleston.

She is the conservative choice for that position.

On social media, a photo of the board is posted with the question, “what do you think?”

I think the simplicity of this ad makes it a winner. She is pictured and the big, bold message says “Deem for Judge.”

That’s really the only point one can convey with a billboard that will only be seen for mere seconds by motorists.

So, Deem’s message is clearly and concisely conveyed in just a few words, “Deem for Judge.” 

If I didn’t know better, I’d say she has a highly-skilled professional working with her campaign.

* * * * * *

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I had a great visit with Huntington Mayor Steve Williams in his City Hall office last week.

The Mayor has done a terrific job managing the city these past 11 years. Now, he’s leaving the Mayor’s Office and stepping up as a Democrat for Governor.

Of course, we didn’t discuss the Governor’s race this time. He and I had agreed months ago that I’d do an article on his late mother and we met to discuss that.

Her terrific accomplishments deserve recognition each and every day. So, look for an uplifting piece soon.

* * * * * *

Although Mayor Williams and I avoided talking politics in his public office, it’s notable that many elected officials mix politics with their job duties.

A photo recently surfaced on social media showing Republican Delegate Eric Householder having a meal with a potential donor to his State Auditor campaign.

At the time Householder was busy politicking his table mate, he was allegedly missing important votes on the House floor.

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If politics rules the show for the Delegate now, how can we trust him to put the state’s finances at the top of his list as Auditor rather than politics?

Kanawha State Senator Mark Hunt is the obvious best choice for Auditor.

* * * * * *

Additional rumors swept the Mingo courthouse last week that FBI agents and State Police were seen in the hallways.

One veteran courthouse observer reported that many county employees were “scared to death.”

All of which begs the question: why would you be “scared” unless you’d done something wrong?

* * * * * *

Finally, here’s a reminder. My endorsements in this column are exclusively mine.

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These opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the newspaper management or web site administrators. 

As I once wrote, “the fact is they definitely don’t represent this newspaper’s views.”

Thus, when I say someone should be elected, that’s solely my opinion.

* * * * * *

Class dismissed.

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

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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.

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From the WV Statewide News Team. Articles depicting "Staff Writer" indicate the content was prepared by several members of the news team.