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Gregory’s Web – April 28, 2024

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If it’s possible for Democrats to verbally beat up Republicans more in the General Election than members of the GOP are pounding on each other in the Primary, it’s hard to imagine.

From the United States Senate Primary to county offices, the name-calling has escalated from an already-heightened level to begin with. It likely has not yet reached its peak as we head toward May 14.

Of course, much of the negative commentary is being done by “outside” special interest groups.

In theory, these organizations have no direct contact with the candidate they’re supporting.

If you buy that, I can offer you a whale of a deal on that famous bridge in Brooklyn.

More than a year ago, I speculated that the Republican U.S. Senate contest would turn into a urinating match between Governor Jim Justice and Congressman Alex Mooney.

It has lived up to my billing for nastiness.

It’s pretty safe to say Mooney and Justice are not exactly bosom buddies. Mooney and his allies have constantly questioned Justice’s Republican conservative credentials.

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For their part, Justice supporters still maintain that Mooney is a worthless carpetbagger even after ten years of representing the Mountain State in Congress. He may LIVE within West Virginia borders but he will never be FROM here, according to them.

Justice, of course, maintains that he is a proven conservative Republican while Mooney says he’s held dear West Virginia values his entire life no matter where he lived.

Justice partisans ran a recent ad proclaiming his long personal and family support for coal and coal miners.

Mooney responded with a “real coal miner” (Chris Rose, himself a District Two State Senate candidate) declaring, “Jim Justice doesn’t care about our coal miners in West Virginia.

“Hundreds of retired coal miners lost their health insurance when Jim Justice’s companies stopped paying their bills.

“Vote for the true conservative, Alex Mooney who actually supports our coal miners,” he concludes.”

Pretty harsh rhetoric, just as I predicted. Remember I told you months ago to talk with folks in Frederick, Maryland about Mooney’s campaign style. He gets down and dirty when he thinks it necessary.

I suspected in 2023 and I think now that the throwing of one accusation after the other at Republican opponents opens the door to Democrats possibly holding the Joe Manchin Senate seat past his 2025 retirement date.

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I believe six months of throwing verbal sticks and stones at each other has greatly enhanced the prospects of either Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott or former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, the two legitimate Democrat candidates, adding the title “Senator” to their resume..

The roaring debate between the two Republicans cannot be good for the GOP overall, even if most of it does come from Mooney.

I doubt that they helped the third Democrat Senate candidate, Zachary Shrewsbury of Princeton, much since he is virtually unknown.

Then, when we move on to the Governor’s race, the leading Republican candidates are enhancing the chances of the lone Democrat, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams.

Current GOP Secretary of State Mac Warner, who polls show is running fourth, has lobbed some verbal hand grenades at acknowledged front-runners ex-Delegate Moore Capito and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Morrisey and Capito have tangled while businessman Chris Miller has taken shots at everyone.

Universally, however, they all tout their 

.conservative credentials and claim to be the best friend former President Trump ever had.

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The latter could be because Trump has received 70% of the WV vote in two elections and is likely to do the same this November.

Of the entire crowd, Justice probably has the best credentials by having been a Trump friend for years. Most of the others – especially Morrisey – just discovered his affinity for Trump recently.

As I also accurately predicted two years ago, Miller gets trashed by the special interest groups for his silly character portrayals in his car dealership ads. In his actor roles, Miller definitely doesn’t look the part of a Governor.

Nobody is saying all this gubernatorial snipping makes Williams the odds-on favorite but it gives him a fighting chance in a race where the three losing candidates have pointed out the winner’s vulnerabilities.

Frankly, it seems to me Williams’ campaign could simply rerun some of the GOP Primary attack ads and do a pretty good job of campaigning. Of course, I’d make the audience aware that this is what a Republican opponent said in the Primary.

The Attorney General candidates on the GOP side – State Auditor JB McCuskey and State Senator Mike Stuart – are not fond of each other, either. There’s less rancor among the Democrats: former South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb and Wheeling spitfire attorney Teresa Toriseva.

I’d say it’s safe to say Toriseva or Robb each have more actual courtroom experience than both of the Republicans combined. It will be interesting to see if that influences voters.

Stuart has done most of the attacks in this race, largely because McCuskey is the overwhelming favorite and is expected to win.

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Stuart’s strongest calling card is that he was “chosen” by Trump to be a U.S. Attorney.

One wonders how strongly Trump feels about that “endorsement” but it clearly can’t hurt Stuart’s chances.

The Democrat AG candidate will present quite a contrast to either Republican. Toriseva is a highly-skilled litigator who will not toe the extreme conservative line.

She has a genuine chance and has been campaigning with energy and dedication for some time.

* * * * * *

Republican opponents have also.been tearing each other apart in legislative races.

Efforts were made to recruit more conservative candidates in districts where the incumbents were considered too moderate or not obedient enough to leadership.

We’ll see if Republicans are able to.patch up Primary brawls as well as Democrats used to when they held the majorities.

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* * * * * *

A recent hit mail piece from Make Liberty Win of Marlinton attacked GOP Senate President Craig Blair.

One side urges the recipient to “Say no to Blair’s radical green agenda.” 

On the reverse it maintains that “instead of standing up for American energy independence , Craig Blair is sacrificing our jobs and economy at the altar of environmental extremism.”

It goes on to say that the Senator “voted to give $290 million in green energy corporate welfare to Form Energy.”

Further, it maintains Blair voted to “increase your energy costs by subsidizing solar power” and “undermined West Virginia’s vitally important coal industry.”

The mailer concludes by urging a vote against Blair. He’s opposed in the Primary by ex-military man Tom Willis and former legislator Michael Folk.

Two opponents dividing the May 14 anti-Blair vote gives the incumbent a distinct advantage.

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Democrat Anthony Murray is poised to run in the General.

* * * * * *

Referencing “best friends” earlier reminded me of a conversation I once had with the late Charleston Mayor G. Kemp Melton.

As Melton’s assistant, we had just dedicated a ball field and were being driven back to City Hall. Before leaving, we had mingled with the crowd on hand.

I chuckled lightly, sitting in the back seat with the Mayor up front with the driver.

“What’s so funny?” Melton asked.

“Oh, I was just thinking you must be the most fickle man in the world,” I responded.

“And why is that?” the Mayor inquired.

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“Because I just met two best friends of yours who introduced themselves to me in the crowd,” I replied.

“That brings to about 50 the number of your ‘best friends’ I’ve met and we’ve only been here five months.”

The Mayor grinned. He did have a lot of ‘“best friends,” for sure.

* * * * * *

The National Association for Gun Rights had this to say about Republican Congresswoman Carol Miller late last week:

“Congresswoman Carol Miller voted for a bill to impose Biden’s ”Red Flag” Gun Confiscation scheme on America’s service members. Is every gun owner next?!”

They added, “Call Rep. Miller at (202) 225-3452 and urge her to apologize for voting Aye on Roll Call 293 on H.R. 4350. Insist she reverse course and stand up for the 2A rights of all Americans.”

It’s safe to always say Miller is definitely not the darling of far right Republicans. This is yet another example.

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Lots of political professionals think West Virginia Republican balloting is now dominated by fringe right conservatives. The Miller Primary contest with former political prisoner Derrick Evans will definitely test that theory.

In ordinary times, Evans would be dismissed as having no chance against Miller, the political pro. Heaven above, even her father was a longtime Ohio Congressman.

But these are not ordinary times. The former President and presumptive 2024 GOP nominee, Trump, is being prosecuted in what many see as a purely political farce. I am one of those who feels that way.

Staunch Trump supporters who have stayed with him through victories and defeats will generally favor the far right candidates.

We’ll watch the May 14 Primary to judge just how far right the party has actually gone.

If Evans was to break 45%, it could mean the state GOP is dominated by far right partisans.

* * * * * *

The absurdity to which “endorsements” have gone is illustrated by Delegate Eric Householder. The Eastern Panhandle Republican is leaving the House to run for State Auditor this time.

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Last week, Householder appeared on social media endorsing Delegate Larry D. Kump for re-election next month. Both Householder and Kump live in Berkeley County.

I have praised Kump here and would likely endorse him against any opponent. But that’s just it – Kump has no opponent, Democrat or Republican. He’s re-elected when he or his sweet spouse (he calls her “bodacious”)  Cheryl, vote for him.

Householder has been “endorsing” candidates left and right, apparently trying to curry favor for himself with those candidates and their supporters. Unopposed, Kump doesn’t need a recommendation. Attorney General contender Stuart is another who has endorsed candidates in other races as well.

There’s an old rule in politics: “never get involved in someone else’s race.” The tenet is based on another long-held belief: you can pick up someone else’s enemies but not their friends.

With all this “endorsing” going on, I guess we’ll see if the old rule is no longer valid.

* * * * * *

It doesn’t take a lot of bold, brave leadership to endorse a candidate who is unopposed.

* * * * * *

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In many ways, Householder is like an old-style legislator-politician who has survived as a back-slapping deal maker. A few of his fellow delegates have told me they are supporting him for Auditor because of past favors he has done for them.

As the former Chair of the House Finance Committee, Householder was in an ideal position to guide various bills to passage. Some of his colleagues have not forgotten that.

Householder is also just the sort of candidate that Jefferson County Commissioner Tricia Jackson, another GOP Auditor candidate, rails against. His “I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine” attitude has been out of style for some time.

* * * * * *

Points for substance should likely go to useanother Republican Auditor candidate, Kanawha State Senator Mark Hunt.

With the Mexican border wall and invasion of migrants the top concerns of West Virginia voters, Hunt stood outside and spoke to those gathered with the wall as a backdrop recently.

He said the Auditor has authority to protect West Virginians from those who might improperly attempt to bill the state for work never done or illegal alien invoices. He also noted that the Auditor is charged with guarding West Virginia from the implementation of “sanctuary cities” within our borders.

Hunt said, “looking over the wall into Mexico in a barren desert setting; seeing men dressed in black on roof tops with automatic weapons (drug cartels); and hearing shots in the background was like looking through the gates of Hell.”

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His social media has both photos and video of his visit. It’s worth taking a look.

* * * * * *

Kanawha County Delegate Chris Pritt and State Senator Eric Nelson, both Republicans, are wrapped in a tough battle for Nelson’s seat.

Pritt appears to be the solid conservative choice while Nelson is viewed as more moderate. Pritt got a bit of a late start for the post, at first considering statewide office.

“In a world where our children’s future is at stake, Senator Eric Nelson has betrayed our values and embraced a dangerous agenda,” a social media post on Pritt’s behalf says.

“Senator Eric Nelson voted yes on an amendment to HB 2007 that allowed minors to continue taking gender transition drugs,” the post continues.

It concludes, “Groomer Eric Nelson sold our children out to the radical left, vote to remove Eric Nelson on May 14th.”

This is another of those ads paid for by a third party, not the candidate.

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It dutifully ends with this disclaimer, “Paid for by Make Liberty Win. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.”

Another attack on Nelson by the same group declares, “Instead of standing up for hard working Americans, Senator Eric Nelson wants to burden taxpayers with more government spending, voting to expand government programs that are already bloated.

“Eric Nelson drastically expanded Medicaid when they voted for HB 2266.”

It continues, “HB 2266 will: • Increase YOUR taxes; • Increase YOUR health insurance premiums • Destroy our hospitals.”

It ends with this admonition: “On May 14th, say no to Socialism, say no to Eric Nelson for State Senate.”

Nelson is still clearly the favorite to hold this seat.

* * * * * *

It may also be time to run for cover if the Doomsday forecasts of Governor Justice and other state politicians are correct.

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Justice referred to new EPA rules last week that he said will devastate West Virginia’s already-reeling coal industry.

Under severe restrictions and stress now, coal has generally always been the lifeblood of the state’s economy. The administration of President (pause) Joe Biden (pause) is determined to implement “clean energy” and fulfill former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s dream of “putting a lot of coal miners out of work.”

Justice and others say the new regulations will accomplish Clinton’s goal very quickly.

In a nutshell, they say the new rules would force coal-fired and natural gas-powered plants to nearly eliminate emissions or close operations.

The Governor lamented the dire circumstances the rules will create and vowed, “not on my watch.” It was unclear at press time what anyone can do to turn the environmental tide.

Justice shared his thoughts while attending a press conference with the West Virginia Coal Association last week at Wheeling’s Independence Hall.

“I am incredibly frustrated by the latest EPA rules,” the Governor said. “This is a clear sign of federal overreach and it completely disregards the important role West Virginia plays in the nation’s energy landscape.”

There’s absolutely no political reason for the Biden administration to give two hoots about the Mountain State energy industry.

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President Biden is about as likely to.carry this state in 2024 as Jesco White. Actually, Jesco is much more likely.

So now we just have to see if this state has enough allies in Congress or elsewhere to set aside implementation of these new rules.

The next Governor has the daunting task of guiding the state through hazardous economic waters anyway, with the loss of the COVID-inspired influx of federal dollars. 

This liberal-inspired action may just break the piggy bank.

* * “ * * *

Unless an independent steps forward or either the state Libertarian or Mountain party nominate a candidate, it appears that former Kanawha County legislator Larry Pack will be unopposed in both the Primary and General for State Treasurer.

Pack has also served as a top assistant to Governor Justice and he’s the state’s National Republican Committeeman.

Although Pack is well-liked and has the ability to fund a statewide campaign himself, it is definitely unusual to see a statewide race be without a candidate from either major party.

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It is likely a fitting commentary on the low spirits of Democrats in the state. Nearly everyone –.Republican and Democrat – believes only the GOP can win in this highly-red state.

I share that view but still marvel at the lack of enthusiasm on the Democrat side. I salute those, such as my Facebook friend Barbara Scott of Moundsville, who beat the drums loudly for their party despite the prevailing beliefs.

I’ve never met her in person but she’s.a model for what an active party member should be.

* * * * * *

The Capito for Governor campaign called it a “game changer.” I agree.

Yes, when I watched Baby Dog high-five Governor Justice after the First Pooch endorsed Moore Capito, I knew the Republican Governor’s race was over.

It doesn’t hurt that Justice supports Capito, too.

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.

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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.