Some intriguing sidelights always emerge around Mingo County politics. It’s fascinating to see that Republicans can be just as colorful — or more so — than Democrats. Give anyone a little power, it seems, and they are prepared to make fools of themselves.
I warned that Mingo and state party executive committee efforts to skirt the law would be detrimental to the Republican cause. It already has been.
One would have to believe that — if one takes the sudden Republican conversion of Audrey Smith for what it’s worth — having fully a third of those coming forward not being Republicans might indicate the damage has already been done.
After Smith, a Republican for roughly three weeks, became the establishment choice to replace her late husband, Gavin, on the county Commission, we learned historic GOP support means nothing to this crew.
Interestingly, it was Mingo Democrats who first mentioned Audrey Smith to me as a possible replacement for her husband. The Republicans instantly fell behind the thought processes of their used-to-be-dominant Democrat friends.
It soon became known, by her own admission, that Audrey Smith was a registered independent at the time of Gavin Smith’s death. She changed to Republican a few days later. Rumors are prevalent that she also moved her automobile registration from Tennessee to Mingo at about the same time.
State law clearly requires that the replacement commissioner be of the same party as the passing member. It even requires that party affiliation for 60 days prior to when the vacancy occurred.
Both state and county Republican Executive committees who are charged with promoting the REPUBLICAN party ignored the law and declared the clearly ineligible independent, Audrey Smith, eligible. Things like that happen in Mingo.
So the past Thursday, when a made-up county committee convened at the courthouse, Chair Bo Copley’s printed agenda showed nine potential candidates listed.
Two of those were still independents and Audrey Smith was listed as a Republican although that opportunistic conversion to the GOP did not take place until July 8. That meant that, essentially, three of the nine candidates were NOT Republicans just two weeks earlier.
Which brings us to my usual accurate prediction. I said that State Chair Mark Harris’ at least tacit endorsement of Independent Audrey Smith coupled with County Chair Bo Copley’s clear support of her sent the message that a lifetime of historic Republicanism made no difference.
Does anyone really believe independents Amy Hannah and Denver Stacy would have tossed their hats in the ring if supposedly Republican officials had not encouraged Smith? Of course not. Instead of party building, Harris, his henchman Executive Director John Findlay and Copley are openly tearing down the GOP.
The kindest terms I heard used to describe Findlay were “rude” and “obnoxious.” Mingo Countians are good judges of people.
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The nine candidates — aside from the three already mentioned — were actually Republicans, of all things. Somehow Democrats and Communists didn’t respond well to Findlay and Copley’s non-partisan altar call to the GOP.
Wesley Blankenship said he’d been a Republican since 2015 and would not run for the office next year; Ernest Sammons had reportedly been a Republican for one year and does intend to run in 2022; Kerry Steven Kominar is a three-year Republican who intends to run; Martin Fortner has been a member of the GOP for 43 years and plans to run; Chadwick Hatfield is a six-year Republican who will run; and Russell Deskins has been a Republican 35 years and would not run.
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Eventually, the committee by secret vote (old Harris motto: “never allow the public access to public information”) to submit Smith, Fortner and Hatfield as their three nominees to the county commission.
Apparently the two sitting commissioners — Democrat Diann Hannah and Republican Thomas “I Don’t Care What the Law Says” Taylor could begin the selection process as early as next week.
Although there’s no real reason to expect Taylor to follow the law, Hannah, as longest serving member, will eliminate one of the three names. Taylor might follow by eliminating one, which would leave the third and remaining candidate as the new Commissioner.
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But I fully expect a legal challenge to the procedures used which include Smith. There are serious doubts that the alleged county executive committee is legally constituted. And Smith’s inclusion as a nominee despite her registration raises many questions.
Findlay told one candidate, “you can sue and you’ll lose” in his usual understanding and cooperative manner Thursday night.
We’ll see. Obviously in the case of Wayne Delegate Josh Booth, the state supreme court managed to ignore precedent and the law in seating Booth. I suppose they could do it again but let’s hope they don’t take months to “explain” their decision as they did in the Wayne County case.
Even with the Supremes, explaining the inexplicable took some serious time in the Booth travesty.
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It could have been the stage for a family reunion at the GOP meeting. Candidate Russell Deskins is well-known as the longtime county Republican chair.
His son-in-law, Chadwick Hatfield, is married to Family Court Judge Sabrina Deskins. Russell Deskins failed to make the three-person cut but his son-in-law was chosen. Perhaps the less time one actually spends as a Republican enhances one’s chances of being a GOP nominee.
It’s a small world after all.