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Editorial

Gregory’s Web – April 7, 2024

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‘Tis the election season, meaning it’s time for various individuals and organizations to make known who they are supporting in the upcoming May 14 election.

Groups that are directly affected by governmental regulations take a keen interest in pending legislation when the Legislature is in session from January to March. They often spend the remainder of each year advocating to legislators for laws and rule changes that are supportive of their goals. Usually, they include constituents in their appeals.

As a part of influencing legislators and legislation, special interest groups often try to assist in the election of representatives they believe will be favorable to their objectives. There’s nothing sinister or illegal about lobbying elected officials as long as it’s kept within legal bounds.

Tougher lobbying rules adopted over the years have strengthened enforcement of proper procedures.

It is unusual, however, for an organization to publicly change its collective mind as to who it wants to see elected. But that’s just what the Mingo County Deputy Sheriff’s Association did in the 2024 Republican race for Attorney General.

The group initially endorsed former United States Attorney Mike Stuart for the job now held by fellow Republican Patrick Morrisey. The AG is running for Governor.

Last week, the Mingo Deputies flipped the switch and withdrew that support.

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The Association posted the original endorsement and subsequent withdrawal within hours of each other late in the week. The Attorney General position was one of several included in their initial announcement.

In a letter to Stuart, the reason given for the dramatic turnaround was Stuart’s public comments made about the death of State Police Sergeant Cory Maynard.

Further, the letter signed by DSA President Norman Mines went on to say, “(T)he use of pictures of Sgt. Maynard’s family is distasteful and should not be used for political sympathy votes.”

Numerous officials and private citizens had criticized Stuart, who critics claimed was using the June 2, 2023 “ambush murder” of Maynard for political purposes.

The Sheriff’s Deputies said they did not learn of Stuart’s campaign tactics until after they endorsed him.

Maynard’s death resulted in charges being filed against Timothy Kennedy, 29, of Matewan. The defendant was indicted for first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, disarming a law enforcement officer and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. The alleged crimes took place in the Beech Creek area of Mingo and were alleged to be an “ambush” by investigating officers.

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Stuart, who is now a Kanawha County State Senator, is running as a strict law and order candidate for AG. His primary opponent is current State Auditor JB McCuskey.

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Wheeling attorney Teresa Toriseva and former South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb are running on the Democrat ticket.

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While the position of the deputies and others who voiced similar opinions in the current Stuart case is understandable, it was clearly not Stuart’s intention to show any disrespect toward the fallen officer or his family.

Stuart has strong opinions on many subjects. As a former Prosecutor, his first reaction was clearly outrage at the murder.

It’s unfortunate that his support for the officer and family were not more clearly conveyed to begin with. Anyone who knows Stuart realizes there is no stronger backer of those wearing law enforcement uniforms than Stuart.

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The Mingo Deputies endorsements included several others. They did point out, as part of their endorsements, that Sheriff Joe Smith is not a member of their organization nor does he have a vote.

Smith is a candidate for re-election and gained the group’s support.

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The organization endorsed Wayne Williamson for House District 29. In the 34th House District, they favored Republican incumbent Mark Dean.

They recommended Sabrina Deskins for Circuit Judge Division One and incumbent Joshua Butcher in Division Three. They made no District Two recommendation.

Marsha Rumora was favored for the Family Court Judge position being vacated by Deskins. Recommended for Division Three Magistrate was incumbent Jim Harvey.

Incumbent Smith got the nod for re-election, as noted. Brock Mounts is the choice for Prosecutor.

The Deputies favor Marty Fortner for County Commission. Incumbent Diann Hannah is running for re-election.

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How soon they forget.

“West Virginians for Life is a dishonest organization!” according to Grace Mooney. She is the seldom-seen wife of Congressman Alex Mooney.

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It seems odd that the far right wing GOP Congressman’s wife would be calling out the most noted anti-abortion group on the planet.

Perhaps not, since they did not endorse Mooney for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Joe Manchin.

Here’s what Mrs. Mooney went on to say in her social media rant: “They (WVFL) did NOT endorse my husband Alex X. Mooney despite having a perfect Pro-life voting record in the past and they have endorsed him 4 times in the past! But they endorsed Jim Justice who has given thousands to the Democratic National Committee and pro abortion candidates.”

I can’t really swear that the now-Republican Governor has given to pro-abortion candidates but it would not surprise me. I have, however, seen the former Democrat’s name on DNC financial reports.

Many of the more radically outspoken right leaning groups have long criticized the WVFL organization for being too “soft” on the issue and too inclined to compromise.

Other family-oriented right wing groups cite WVFL lobbyist Sadie Keaton as an example of someone who should be at the forefront of all anti-abortion legislation. Sometimes, they claim, she is not to be found.

While she maintains that she is always leading the charge against abortion, others say she is not doing it powerfully enough.

I have found WVFL, over the past 40 years, to be fairly reasonable in their approach to the legislature. Keaton’s predecessors have usually been reasonable in their efforts.

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The group, while never actually wavering in their anti-abortion stance, are a bit more open to compromise than some other “pro-family” organizations.

As an example, a few groups lobby hard all session against any bill they consider “pro-choice.” Most never had a chance of passing anyway. WVFL doesn’t waste time like that.

Meanwhile, if a proposed bill is going to pass overwhelmingly no matter what anyone says, they may ease up on the pressure as well.

The WVFL leadership has been around long enough to know endorsing 100 Pro-life candidates does little for the cause if 95 are destined to lose.

So, while they may insist it doesn’t, electability plays a major role in endorsements.

Everyone knows Governor Jim Justice has consistently led Mooney by 30 points or more in polling for the Senate spot.

Justice is going to win; Mooney is destined to lose. That’s with or without a WVFL endorsement.

Practically, what does that mean? It means WVFL could endorse Mooney and keep a citizen-friend for life. Or they could tout Justice and hope he votes with them in the future.

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Under that scenario, they’ll endorse Justice every time.

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Kanawha County State Senator Mark Hunt has a meet and greet fundraiser scheduled for this Thursday, April 11, in his race for State Auditor.

The event runs from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Masters Law Firm, 181 Summers Street in downtown Charleston.

Invitations say Hunt will be available to discuss legislative priorities as well as his Republican Auditor campaign.

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Meanwhile, the West Virginia Citizens Defense League has endorsed Republican Congressman Mooney for the United States Senate over Justice.

The two are seeking the last West Virginia Congressional seat still held by a Democrat. Earlier, incumbent Joe Manchin had announced he would not seek another term this year.

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The CDL praised Mooney, saying he has a 100% voting record on gun control issues.

The CDL is one of those “other” organizations I contrasted with the WVFL.

There is no subtlety with the CDL. They are solidly devoted to the issue of gun rights, and there is no room for compromise.

One of their mottos is “the Second Amendment is your gun permit.”

Therefore, it makes sense that the CDL sticks with Mooney while the WVFL does not.

It’s all in differing ideas as to how each group best achieves their goals.

There’s no absolute right or wrong approach but it’s fascinating to watch.

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An intriguing race years ago featured incumbent Democrat Kanawha Circuit Clerk Phyllis Rutledge facing challenger Cathy Gatson in the primary.

Despite the fact that Rutledge was a former state legislator with a perfect labor voting record, the local union organization endorsed Gatson. As a newcomer, Gatson had no voting record at all.

Because of some courthouse controversies, including Rutledge’s support of Republican Prosecutor Mike Roark, Gatson was the heavy favorite to win.

Needless to say, perhaps, Gatson defeated Rutledge and remains in office to this day. Rutledge continued her labor support for many years, despite losing that one time.

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While jogging our memories about elections past, I’m reminded that I worked in former Mayor Robb’s unsuccessful Congressional campàign to unseat incumbent Republican Mick Staton in the tainted 1980 election.

It is the same Robb who is now running for Attorney General.

That was the first election here to feature electronic voting in Kanawha County. Accusations of voting manipulation flew back and forth and a big federal lawsuit was filed.

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I remember well that Charleston attorney John Mitchell Sr. represented the plaintiffs in the ensuing trial. He was the father of current Kanawha Democrat Prosecutor candidate, John Mitchell, Jr.

The plaintiffs were Hutchinson, County Commissioner William Reese and House Delegate Leonard Underwood.

County Clerk Peggy Miller, Circuit Clerk Phyllis Rutledge, Charleston Mayor/Congressman John Hutchinson and Delegate Walter Price were among major actors in the drama. The defense prevailed at the trial but I still question the outcome.

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My friend, computer expert Charlie Denny, was a big time Staton man. He disagrees with me about the honesty of that balloting.

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Let’s wrap up the 2024 House of Delegates field.

In District 90, Republican incumbent George Miller is being challenged by Mike Riccio in the primary. No Democrats have filed.

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Three Republicans are running in the 91st District, where everyone may stand accused of stealing yard signs.

Incumbent Republican Don Forsht is being challenged by Joseph de Soto and Tammy Hess. There are no Democrats running.

The 92nd District features incumbent Republican Mike Hite running without GOP or Democrat opposition.

The incumbent Republican is also unopposed in District 93. There, Mike Horby is alone on the ballot.

In the 94th District, incumbent Republican Larry Kump is without an opponent, too. He is one of the hardest-working people in Charleston. Solidly conservative, the transparent Kump can usually be found each morning at 6 a.m. at his capitol office while the House is in session.

District 95 Republican incumbent Charles Horst is up against Democrat Debi Carroll.

Incumbent GOP Delegate Eric Householder of the 96th is running for State Auditor. Republicans will choose between Tanner Rogers and Lisa White.

Aniqua Lower is unopposed for the Democrat nod.

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In District 97, Republicans will choose between Chris Anders and Pam Brush. Conservatives in the district have serious doubts about Anders. Democrat Lucie Valentine has no opponents.

The 97th District incumbent, Republican John Hardy, is running for the County Commission.

The GOP’s Barbara Fuller will meet Joe Funkhouser in the 98th primary. Troy Miller will represent the Democrats since he is unopposed.

District 98 incumbent Paul Espinosa is running for the State Senate.

Three Republicans and a Democrat are running in the 99th District. Incumbent GOP Delegate Wayne Clark is being targeted as not sufficiently conservative by some far right wingers. He has two primary challengers: Mike Allers, Jr. and Daphne Andrews.

Andrews is the choice of the solidly right crowd.

The final district, 100, features incumbent Republican William Ridenour unopposed in the primary. Maria Russo has no opponent among Democrats.

Can you believe we’re done – for now?

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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.

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