Perhaps we should be like the vast majority of the public and just declare what a great job Governor Jim Justice is doing and move on with life.
So, let’s just make that declaration and zip ahead.
Speculation abounds as to who the next U.S. Attorney for Southern West Virginia will be.
Informed sources indicated last week that Boone Circuit Judge Will Thompson is President Joe Biden’s.choice for the job.
“All he has to do now is pass the background check and nobody doubts that will happen,” said a source close to the decision makers.
If selected and approved, Thompson, a Democrat, would replace Republican Mike Stuart, who resigned at the request of President Joe Biden.
Thompson is a highly-respected jurist who will bring a reputation for hard work and dedication to the job.
He has been innovative in leading and promoting programs designed to help both juveniles and adults who are addicted to illicit drugs.
His “drug courts” have served as model programs for the rest of the state and nation.
Although the U.S. Attorney positions are partisan because they are nominated by whoever is elected President, the post is clearly supposed to be outside the realm of political influence in actual operation. Justice (the term not the Governor) is not partisan.
Therefore, Thompson’s appointment will do little to change the direction of the office. The drug problems of Southern West Virginia will, no doubt, continue to be front and center. The focus and style, however, could shift under the new attorney.
Thompson is not naturally as flamboyant as Stuart.
In my experience as a journalist, I have always found Thompson to be fair and firm in the courtroom, however. He’s also always accessible, which cannot be said for many judges.
If I had a vote, I’d go with Judge Thompson every time. He’ll do a great job.
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Speaking of Mike Stuart, his name is on the lips of every prognosticator looking at the 2024 Republican gubernatorial nomination.
Actually, Stuart is thought to be a leading GOP candidate for both Governor and U.S. Senator.
The governor race is fascinating because Governor Justice cannot, by law, seek a third consecutive term. Thus, the race becomes a free-for-all.
There’s speculation that all the members of the board of public works might run.
Therefore, Secretary of State Mac Warner, Treasurer Riley Moore, Auditor J.B. McCuskey and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey are all viewed as potential governors. A few even believe Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leinhardt might throw his hat in the ring.
At this point, Morrisey is thought to be the leader of what could obviously be a crowded field.
On the other hand, Morrisey and Stuart could be leading candidates for Manchin’s U.S. Senate seat. That opens up in 2024 as well.
Meanwhile, Democrats have few obvious candidates. The 2020 nominee, Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango is a o
possibility. Democrats gave Salango the nod in 2020 to take a thrashing from Justice. He did that well, losing by 497,000 to 237,000.
As an attorney and politician, Salango is a good speaker and presents himself well. It has been very difficult, over the years, to elect a Charlestonian as governor. Inherent jealousy and mistrust of the state capitol make the capital city address a negative in a statewide gubernatorial campaign.
Stuart, now in private practice, has been making the rounds in GOP circles, including the Republican Women gathering in Huntington Friday evening. I believe he’s seriously considering a run for either Governor or Senator.
Remember that Morrisey gave U.S. Senator Joe Manchin all he could handle in 2018. The AG only lost that one by about 18,000 votes out of 600,000 cast. So a rematch would keep us entertained all year long.
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Manchin continues his determination to prove he’s just Republican enough to serve the people in perhaps the reddest state in the nation.
After refusing to support things like breaking the filibuster, he has now endorsed the re-election of Republican U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
The West Virginia Senator had nothing but praise for his colleague when confirming his support.
Murkowski, who some call a moderate and I call wishy-washy, faces a major primary challenge by a Republican supported by former President Donald Trump.
I blame Murkowski for many actions, long before she collided with Trump. She definitely undermined the political career of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and did nothing to help Alaskan Man of the Century Senator Ted Stevens when the G.W. Bush administration sabotaged him.
- Like a few others, Murkowski is a Republican In Name Only (RINO) who strays from the conservative path quite often.
The Alaska Senator voted to convict Trump of insurrection, a complete insult to followers of the ex-President. First of all, there was never an insurrection and next, Trump did nothing to incite it but Murkowski somehow believed Democrat socialists.
There was some speculation on capitol hill that Manchin’s endorsement was simply payback for Trump’s highly public support of Morrisey in that 2018 election.
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Statehouse rumors, usually about as worthy as a pandemic mask, swirled most of the past session that House Speaker Roger Hanshaw is planning not to run for re-election.
I’ll believe that when I see the 2022 filing deadline pass with no paperwork from the Clay County delegate. Frankly, I don’t see why he’d hang it up. He’s been a statehouse fixture as either GOP counsel or a delegate for years. His party has a super majority. He’s a very powerful man. Why wouldn’t he run again?
If Hanshaw doesn’t run, several current committee chairs will likely step up to the plate. The top name mentioned has been Berkeley Countian Eric Householder. Some even say Householder announced he would be a candidate for speaker during the just-past session whether Hanshaw returned or not. But that is apparently not true.
As House Finance Chair, Householder is in a powerful position although becoming Speaker would be a step up.
Another name being prominently mentioned is Raleigh County’s Brandon Steele. As chair of the Government Organization committee, many pieces of major legislation go through that committee. Thus, a lot of GOP delegates may be loyal to Steele for his help with legislation they favored.
Still, I’ll be shocked if Hanshaw steps down next year.
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But I’ve been shocked before by statehouse activities.
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There’s always some likelihood that a legislator might decide to run for the open governor seat. Senate President Craig Blair would be a formidable candidate for instance.
The Eastern Panhandle, which Blair hails from, makes itself more powerful by growing while the rest of the state loses population.
Republican Congressman David McKinley has also been mentioned. He has sought the office before.
Assuming redistricting actually gets completed before the next election, as GOP leadership assures me it will, McKinley might be faced with a tough race against one of his Republican colleagues.
That’s if the 2020 census causes the state to lose a seat in the House of Representatives, as most expect.
(In fact, a Charleston Gazette-Mail contributing columnist recently wrote an entire column based on the theory that the state has already lost a seat. He also said the state originally had four House districts. I can recall six).
However the census number falls, any redistricting down to two would almost certainly pit McKinley against fellow Congressman Alex Mooney.
Many politicos think McKinley would win that contest easily. I’m not so sure. That vote-rich Eastern Panhandle will vote solidly for Mooney. That may be enough to make him a winner.
Mooney has also been included in future governor speculation. I think that’s out of the question since Mooney avoids leaving the Eastern Panhandle at all costs. Most Charleston residents wouldn’t know him and have never seen him.
McCuskey and Moore are definitely interested in the job and Warner is a realistic candidate as well. With as many as six serious candidates being in the race, it’s difficult to predict who might win.
Logically, Morrisey likely has his best shot by getting back into the senate race against Manchin but my instincts say he wants to be Governor.
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There are many who think Manchin will be easy to knock off if he seeks re-election. Don’t count me in that crowd.
The Manchin name brings solid support from a large segment of the population.
But I honestly think Manchin’s unhidden secret is constituent services. In the old days, West Virginia’s representatives in Washington responded to every constituent complaint and actually got out into the districts to know their citizens.
I think some of that “personal touch” was lost long before Covid. The facts are that David McKinley is no Arch Moore or Bob and Alan Mollohan. Alex Mooney is no Harley or Bucky Staggers. Carol Miller is not Nick Joe Randall.
Manchin and his staff deliver the best constituent services today. They match the performance of the ” old timers” I mentioned.
It’s possible that voters will retire Manchin anyway, as they did Bucky Staggers, Alan Mollohan and Rahall but it won’t be as easy as some expect.
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When is a party not a party? Maybe when former Eastern Panhandle Delegate Marshall Wilson makes himself head of “The Independent Party of West Virginia.”
- Wilson and his supporters claim his party won a party spot on future ballots because he ran an independent write-in campaign for Governor in 2020 and got more than one percent of the vote.
While Wilson is relying on the same law that puts the Mountain Party and Libertarians on the ballot, I think claiming to represent the “independent party” is a contradiction in terms.
By simple definition, running as an independent makes one a non-partisan candidate, it seems to me. To claim it established a ballot spot for independents is not logical.
For years, those running as anti both major parties have had the option of running as ” independents.” Now, one has to go to The Independent Party convention and get it to “nominate” him or her? That sounds oddly like a political party to me.
I’m confident authors of the law did not anticipate someone taking over the “independent” name for their own political party line.
I asked the Secretary of State’s staff to tell me their position on the issue months ago. I still haven’t received an answer. I guess we’ll know in 2022 if official ballots have the independent line on them.
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Oh … and Governor Justice is doing a great job. Long live masks!