While redistricting the state’s congressional seats as well as the House of Delegates and State Senate claimed most of the political attention earlier this year, county redistricting is now causing debate in some quarters.
Logan County commissioners have scheduled a vote for December 1 on their magisterial redistricting plans while Cabell County has set December 9 for a decision on theirs.
In Cabell, several groups and individuals have expressed concern about a potential plan that would decrease magisterial districts from five to three. The effect that change would have on some potential elections has sparked concern.
In Logan, Commission President Danny Godby said he’s confident there will either be three or four districts at the end of the process.
As usual, stated reasons for establishing certain districts are often overridden by gossip and rumors about the “real reasons.”
In Cabell, where the debate has been fiercest, some are convinced that reducing magisterial districts from five to three has one main purpose. That reason, they argue, is to lock Republican House of Delegates member John Mandt Jr. out of running for county commission in 2022.
A proposal that has been thought to have the support of Cabell Commissioners Nancy Cartmill (Republican) and Jim Morgan (Democrat) would create three districts. One of those three would put Cartmill in the same district with Mandt. He would not, as he has been, be in a district with Morgan.
Since Morgan’s term — but not Cartmill’s — expires next year, that would preclude Mandt from running. State law limits membership on the commission to no more than one from any magisterial district. With Cartmill already representing the district Mandt lives in, he would not be eligible if the three district plan passes as proposed.
Those pushing for three give their public reason as assuring that everyone in the county would be represented by one member. Every two years, two districts are shut out under the old five districts, they say.
Others say five districts enables more competition every two years for the three seats and opens the commission to fresh faces more often.
Regardless, the late changes create a dilemma for Mandt, who announced he would run for commission instead of delegate weeks ago.
In fact, Mandt prefiled for commission and has raised about $10,000 for his campaign. While Mandt can still run for his old seat when filing occurs in January, some believe he cannot use the $10,000 for a county rather than state race
Mandt told me that matter is moot anyway. “If I don’t run for commission, I will refund those donations immediately,” he said. “And if I run for something else, we’ll start all over.”
It’s interesting that Cartmill, a fellow Republican, would appear to be siding with Morgan, the Democrat who presumably will be running for re-election in 2022.
But here’s one educated observation and prediction from me: the Cabell and Huntington Republicans are not nearly as united as they’d like you to believe. The divide between groups in the GOP will become more and more noticeable as election day draws near.
Cartmill is not going to be helping Mandt, even if that would assure a totally GOP Commission.
Delegate Mandt is, of course, a successful businessman who brings a lot of enthusiasm and energy to the table. One would think Cartmill would want that but apparently not.
If five magisterial districts remain intact after December 9, Mandt will not reside in Cartmill’s district and can run for the announced seat.
While the U.S. Census Bureau can be blamed for being tardy on getting 2020 population figures to states, counties and municipalities, it’s fairly clear that procrastination only serves to further complicate what is already a complicated process.
Mandt announced his commission pre-candidacy in a timely manner to give anyone interested in seeking his House seat adequate time to make an intelligent decision. Now he’s potentially forced into a decision he doesn’t want to make. This is no way to run a railroad — or a county commission redistricting process.
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I’ve lamented the lack of a viable Democrat frontrunner for Governor in 2024. Kanawha Commissioner Ben Salango is the logical choice since he offered himself to be thumped by Republican Jim Justice in 2020.
Clearly, with Justice out of the race due to term limits, Salango would have a better shot in 2024.
But another possibility is one I mentioned last time as being unbeatable for re-election to her current office.
Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin will be riding high in her second term by 2024. With many projected improvements on the drawing board, it just might be her rather than husband, former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, who moves that family into the Governor’s Mansion.
Amy Goodwin has apparently crossed the aisle and united Council Democrats and Republicans. She’s full of energy and could well be the answer to Democrat dreams.
While on that subject, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams is headed toward retirement. In 2016, he announced for Congress but then withdrew so he’s had interest outside Cabell before. Maybe he could now eye the Governor’s chair.
What an improvement any of these three would be over the current state of affairs.
And, oh yeah, a real Republican would likewise improve things — and be the favorite to win.
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Back to Logan County Commission briefly, literally dozens of Loganites have told me they’d like an opportunity to right their wrong next year.
Their collective “wrong,” as they see it, was voting for former State Senator Richard Ojeda and against ex-county commissioner and Senator Art Kirkendoll.
In that infamous fight-blurred contest, they mistakenly voted for Ojeda, they say.
These folks now realize what a great job Kirkendoll did for decades as a county commissioner. From improving emergency services to parks and recreation, building athletic fields and bringing public water to nearly everyone in the county, Kirkendoll was a mover and shaker.
While I haven’t heard from Kirkendoll, I hope he knows people are longing for the opportunity to make things right in 2024 by putting him back in the courthouse.
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Next time, let’s chat more about Cabell and Raleigh counties. Magisterial redistricting effects School Board membership and the Cabell/Huntington Parks Board. The implications are intriguing.