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Gregory’s Web – May 19, 2024

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Don’t get excited, folks. We aren’t turning literary here. In fact, we’re barely literate.

Tuesday’s primary election brought us some surprising, startling as well as anticipated results.

We begin the process of what happened May 14 in this issue. Analyzing why people do what they do is, in fact, a favorite pastime of mine.

If the average voter didn’t know that Governor Jim Justice was going to defeat the nearly Anonymous Congressman Alex Mooney to be the Republican U.S. Senate nominee, I wouldn’t want him or her explaining the theory of relativity or any other complex subject matter.

The Justice-Mooney outcome was, mathematically, the “best of times” for a political writer like me who has wanted rid of “Alex Mooney; the Maryland Looney” for a decade or more.

Confident predictions that Senate GOP President Craig Blair would coast to re-election since he had two opponents to split the anti-Blair vote proved among the worst of times for election seers such as I.

While few legitimate election law violations were reported to officials anywhere in the state, I continue to believe the Mac Warner, Secretary of State policy of only looking into questions of illegal election activity if a complaint is filed is playing into the dirty politicians’ hands. Transferring that asinine policy to all illegality would result in many more unsolved high crimes and misdemeanors. It’s another  example of the worst of times.

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I have said we haven’t had an aggressive, election law enforcer since the days of the late Democrat Secretary of State, Ken Hechler.

How silly is it that election law violations are only investigated if someone reports them? Yet that’s how it is without Hechler in office.

I seldom agreed with Hechler when he served in Congress and I never voted for him. But he was a tiger when it came to defending election laws. That was the best of times.

The remaining Secretaries, even the usually aggressive Republican SOS Betty Ireland, was a playful kitty at election time. It was the worst of times.

* * * * * *

There is jubilation in the camp since the voters and I expanded the cleansing of Mingo County politics.

In seven months, Sabrina Deskins will be the new Circuit Judge. In addition, Brock Mounts will be Prosecutor. 

That’s good news for justice in Mingo County.

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I well remember the gratefulness of Dawson Isom supporters when we achieved our first ballot victory by defeating clueless, wicked Prosecutor Teresa Maynard. That was the relatively best of times in a situation that really didn’t have a “best.” A young man lay dying in a local extended care facility. While we praised minor victories, it was, collectively, the worst of times.

I pilfered the line, “Ding-dong, the Witch is dead” to describe how most felt about the end of Maynard’s run as Prosecutor. While it may have been the most hideous, it wasn’t the only case Maynard bobbled during her years in office.

Now, there is even more reason for hope since unpleasant Judge Miki Thompson will soon leave the bench to Deskins. The new judge is compassionate and firm when she needs to be.

* * * * * *

Mark 6:4 (NIV): “Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”’

Now, if you’ll turn in your hymn book to page 233 ….

Oops! Wrong class. I get carried away.

Longtime readers will realize there’s seldom a mixture of religion and politics in this space. While I’m not trying to stir it here, the Mark 6:4 quote came immediately to mind when I scribbled Mingo vote totals election night.

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It was the United States Senate race that drew my attention. Unbelievably, it was the numbers on the mostly irrelevant Democrat ticket that caught my eye.

There they were in glorious black and white: Don Blankenship, 657 votes; Zachary Shrewsbury, 288; and Glenn Elliott, 198.

In this case, Mingo voters have shown themselves to buck the biblical trend and go for the hometown millionaire-made-good.

If I say this proves Mark 6:4 is not always right, can I get an “amen“?

In the locale where he is best known, Blankenship finished first. He accomplished that feat as a Democrat, having been a Republican all his life (Well, “not yet, he ain’t” as the Old Roadhog, Lester Moran always said) in a party that didn’t field any candidates in several races.

His county win also comes after years of media bashing him for every step he ever took, no matter how successful.

I like Don Blankenship. He is nothing at all like the villainous caricature Main Street Media has painted him to be.

The people who know him best obviously agree with me. That’s quite a compliment to Blankenship.

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Maybe he should run against Thomas Taylor for Mingo County Commissioner.

That could just be the best of times.

* * * * * *

Republican State Senate President Craig Blair’s loss to Tom Willis in the primary led the list of incumbent losses for the supermajority GOP. Former legislator Mike Folk ran third to Willis and Blair.

It was also the continuation of a trend for Republican Senate leaders who cannot seem to win re-election.

Four years ago, it was GOP Senate President Mitch Carmichael who unexpectedly lost to Amy Nicole Grady.

It wasn’t unexpected by me, since I was one of just three people in the world who thought that the Mason County public school teacher had a chance against the veteran,powerful Carmichael. (The others being Senator Grady herself and one of my favorite legislative spouses, her husband Jack Grady).

Interestingly, Blair probably acquired even more power quickly than Carmichael ever had. The current President has developed a near-perfect system of raising funds for candidates he prefers. Like many similar comparisons, adequate funds are the lifeblood of politics.

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The last man to hang on to the Senate’s top job for long was Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin of Logan. 

Tomblin held a firm but fair gavel before moving on to become Governor.

In the current situation, it will be interesting to see if Blair wholeheartedly supports Willis this fall against Democrat Anthony Murray.

For his part, Carmichael congratulated Grady and went on to push her in November.

The contest between Grady and Murray will not be close, with Grady clearly having the upper hand.

She’d be an even stronger candidate if she didn’t publicize her hero worship of the Pee Wee Herman look-alike President of WVWho.

Pee Wee is the worst of times.

* * * * * *

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It’s ironic that Blair was defeated at the same time voters ended the tenure of his major GOP nemesis, State Senator Robert Karnes of Randolph County.

Robbie Morris, said to have been recruited by Blair, downed the cantankerous Karnes in the primary. 

Morris now meets Democrat Mandy Weirich.

I have noted before that I admired Karnes for his transparency, courage to say what he thinks and debate skills. The state is not well-served by his defeat.

* * * * * *

Embattled Marshall County Republican Senator Mike Maroney lost to Chris Rose. No Democrat filed for that seat.

Maroney had a persistent problem making it to meetings, even Senate floor sessions. I’m sure my favorite Northern Panhandle Democrat, Barbara Scott, was ecstatic at the incumbent’s defeat. She had been documenting his absenteeism for years.

A fourth incumbent Republican Senator, Chandler Swope of Mercer County, fell to Craig Hart last week.

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Hart will battle Democrat Randy Fowler in the general.

* * * * * *

Many readers openly scoffed each time I predicted the possibility of former Kanawha Delegate Moore Capito winning the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

It could have been won. While polls were projecting upwards to 20-point wins for Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, I knew better.

In the end, Morrisey carried 34 counties. Huntington businessman Chris Miller led in 11 and Capito in ten.

Some speculated that fringe right opposition to Moore Capito and his mother, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, may have cost the son the governorship.

The far right wingers often accused both Capitos of being RINOs (Republicans in Name Only).

Those accusations stung, especially on social media pages devoted primarily to the re-election of President Trump.

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Those who insist on 100% allegiance to every position they consider “conservative Republican are the worst of times.

* * * * * *

It’s safe to say that Moore Capito, like his mom, would have been much more in agreement with Trump than not.

The GOP naysayers, who champion the cause of “our way or the highway,” will be responsible for some Democrat wins this fall and the eventual comeback of FDR’s old party and policies.

Their insistence on their version of “philosophical perfection” is counterproductive. 

* * * * * *

It occurs to me that Republican Congressman Alex Mooney might not have lost the U.S. Senate nomination three-to-one in Kanawha County if he had acknowledged Charleston was in his district the first nine years he served in the House of Representatives.

Apparently adhering to the old Henry Clay comments, “I’d rather be right than be president,” Mooney acted as though his district included only the Eastern Panhandle.

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So seldom was Mooney in Kanawha County that longtime Charleston Mayor Danny Jones remarked near his own retirement that he had never met his Congressman.

When Mooney announced his U.S. Senate bid, he promised to tighten the race by being visible outside the Panhandle. 

His affinity for Maryland was so great, however, that he seldom made it West of Helvetia.

Mooney had a Congressional seat he likely could have held on to forever.  Now, his political prospects are bleak unless Jefferson County needs a low-paid solar farm manager.

With Mooney, it is usually the worst of times.

* * * * * *

I also drew some critical comments when I said, early on, that State Senator Mark Hunt of Kanawha County would be the almost certain winner of the Republican State Auditor nomination.

The two Eastern Panhandle candidates – former County Commissioner Tricia Jackson and Delegate Eric Householder – canceled out each other’s votes and it was simply no contest.

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Now Hunt faces perennial Democrat candidate Mary Ann Roebuck Claytor. With Trump leading the GOP ticket, it won’t be close with Hunt as the prohibitive favorite.

As I’ve said before, Claytor is a very nice, obviously moral candidate and religious speaker. That won’t help much in November.

* * * * * *

I’m clearly cheering for Auditor candidate Jackson to file and win an appeal of her removal as a Jefferson County Commissioner.

Jackson and fellow Commissioner Jennifer Krouse did nothing to earn removal from office by a three-judge panel.

The two commissioners were fighting for their clearly stated principles when they refused to attend some commission meetings.

In my view, neither committed anything close to a high crime and/or misdemeanor.

The people should have the only power to remove a duly elected official – at the ballot box.

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With total respect for the members of the three-judge panel and their integrity, they should never be able to usurp the power of the people.

* * * * * *

I’ve often mentioned *good winners, bad winners, good losers and bad losers” in elections. This year is no exception.

A shining example of how an ideal “good loser” should behave is GOP Commissioner of Agriculture contender Joshua Higginbotham.

Even though he ran a spirited campaign, he was extremely conciliatory toward incumbent Kent Leonhardt, who defeated him soundly for the Ag Commission post.

Higginbotham had nothing negative to say about either Leonhardt or a third candidate, Roy Ramey.

He even pledged to hit the campaign trail for the incumbent Commissioner.

Josh Higginbotham represents the best of times.

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* * * * * *

In a race that had the ingredients of being really negative, Putnam County House challenger Debi Deweese was likewise cordial after losing a tight race to incumbent Kathie Hess-Crouse.

Given the pair’s histories of negative verbal exchanges, it might have been worse – much worse.

Deweese immediately congratulated Crouse. In doing so, she promised to support Crouse and the GOP.

“I reached out to Delegate Kathie Crouse last evening and pray she will work just as hard as she did in our race,” Deweese good-naturedly said.

This was, indeed, the best of times.

* * * * * *

There’s little doubt an entire week turned out to be the worst of times for one statewide Republican candidate.

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On Tuesday, May 14, former Kanawha County Delegate Doug Skaff Jr. was soundly defeated in the Secretary of State race by former State Republican Chair Kris Warner.

Two days later, Skaff was lying in a Charleston hotel room. He was recuperating from three bites administered by two copperhead snakes, according to media reports.

Skaff encountered the reptiles while picking up his campaign signs.

* * * * * *

The tone of this year’s campaign advertising definitely took a detour into negativism, which made it the worst of times overall.

Particularly in the Republican gubernatorial contest, each day brought increasingly vicious attacks on opposing candidates.

While I seldom appreciate negative ads, I realize some are necessary to “level the playing field.”

It was fascinating to watch Republican Governor candidate Morrisey plead for peace and tranquility two days after the primary.

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It was particularly entertaining since it was Morrisey who first issued attack rhetoric at the outset of the campaign.

* * * * * *

It was also Morrisey operatives who demonstrably had ties to the most vicious, immoral and false advertising thus far in 2024.

Attack, unsubstantiated “reports” by the non-existent “Pittsburgh Observer” news outlet likely cost Moore Capito the election.

This was the worst of times for multiple reasons. For one thing, the “reports” were clearly intended to slander Capito. For another, they re-enforced West Virginia’s horrible reputation of intolerance for the rights of others.

To the extent anyone connected with this trash continues to have input into the state GOP, the party should immediately sever those relationships. 

It is the worst of times.

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. View all posts

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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.