Sarcasm has its place in politics — and in life in general.
All too often, though, sarcastic observations by political pundits such as I become reality.
Honestly, I was being mostly sarcastic when I suggested state Republican Party Chair Mark Harris’ meteoric political career was leading him straight to the legislature. That idea is so ridiculous, who could dream it would turn out correct?
The whole concept is confusing. Recall, if you will, that Harris is a doctor by training. At a relatively young age, he has “retired” from practicing medicine to serve as a small church pastor AND develop a political career.
Somehow (although like everything else with the current Republican party organizations, it isn’t clear how) Harris became Raleigh County GOP Chair about a year ago.
Thanks to the sudden, unexpected resignation of State Chair Melody Potter, Harris allegedly “won” the right to complete her term by getting less votes than former Chair Conrad Lucas. That was three months ago.
So now Harris, relieved of his job at the Beckley VA Medical Center in disgrace just months ago, is both the state and Raleigh GOP leader.
Politics is sometimes like basketball. Just toss the ball in the air and see where it goes.
After a couple of bounces, my original observation is now looking good. It’s tough being right so much that one has trouble ever being wrong. It’s one of the burdens of near-perfection that I carry with me daily. A lesser man would have difficulty dealing with it. But then … I’m so incredibly humble I manage it.
It just so happens that Republican Raleigh County Delegate Jeffrey Pack has decided to leave the legislature to accept a real job in state government.
That means the 28th Delegate District, which includes Monroe, Raleigh and Summers counties, will have one Delegate vacancy.
Republican Roy Cooper will continue to serve in the other House seat. But Pack’s coming resignation means the turmoil of choosing his legislative replacement has begun.
Replacing a legislator would seem innocent enough to the casual observer. Actually, the laws governing picking a replacement appear clear enough to most of us.
But GOP leaders have proven that it is, in fact, possible to muck up a two-car funeral or any public office appointment.
There is some likelihood that all will agree that, in this case, the state Republican Executive Committee and its officials will coordinate the selection process. That’s because the district crosses county lines. Theoretically.at least, there is supposed to be a 28th Delegate District Republican Executive Committee.
Often, nobody runs for these committee spots and they remain vacant when no official action is required of them. But when a legislative vacancy occurs, as is now going to be the case, a “committee” is often rushed together to meet legal requirements. Thus, a committee whose membership lacks any voter input whatsoever has a huge role in replacing a legislator who WAS elected by the people. AND is supposed to be the peoples’ representative.
Without rehashing details, remember that this is the same state committee that created the illegal-but-supreme-court-sanctioned appointment of Josh Booth to an earlier Wayne County Delegate vacancy.
It becomes the 28th district committee’s duty to select three potential replacements for the Governor to appoint as Pack’s replacement. Most will agree those nominees must be of the same party as the departing Delegate. That seems a no-brainer. With Republican officials, it just isn’t that simple however.
Although we’ve been focused on a different office — Mingo County Commission — it’s safe to say the sanctity of choosing a Republican is of no import to current state GOP officials. They would apparently be just as happy to send the name of a communist to the Governor. But we’ll discuss all that in a minute.
The three nominees selected are then forwarded to the Governor who chooses the replacement. That’s where Harris holds all the aces.
As state chair, he can set the agenda and conduct the selection process. I jokingly said he might have himself nominated. As one reader said, “it’s no joke any more.”
In addition to having been elected state chair in a suspicious vote count, Harris has retained his role as Raleigh County chair. He’s also let it be known that he wants the job replacing Pack.
Thus, the doctor-turned-preacher has two big advantages. Well, three if one concludes that God MUST be on HIS side.
As state chair, he can coordinate the selection process. As county chair, he gets to pick one-third of the committee membership. The odds on him being the eventual replacement delegate are beginning to look very good.
Harris has, however, scheduled a Tuesday meeting of the county committee where he is expected to step down. There is apparently even SOME honor among thieves.
Still, Harris will control who replaces him as county chair. He remains in the driver’s seat and sources with direct access to the Governor tell me Justice is inclined to appoint Harris if he’s one of those recommended.
This is yet another debacle created by party officials. Those in the know in Raleigh call Harris “unelectable” which may mean the loss of a seat by the GOP in 2022.
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There’s also little need to rehash part of the reason Harris couldn’t be elected to supervise BabyDog’s cash giveaways. He was chief of staff at the Beckley VA Medical Center and at least involved in hiring the doctor who sexually abused 70 or more veterans.
The few Harris supporters in Raleigh ignore those facts but the voters will not.
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Speaking of BabyDog and the Governor’s insistence on giving away pandemic recovery funds to bribe West Virginians to get Covid shots, the secrecy of that operation raises multiple questions as well.
Reporters are being stonewalled when it comes to where prizes are coming from and whether proper — or any — bidding is being done to purchase the giveaway prizes.
It’s a small world and an even smaller state but it seemed odd when an employee of Bill Cole’s automobile dealerships won one of the first big prizes.
It was Cole, you may recall, who virtually folded his campaign tent while running against Justice in 2016. As the Republican nominee, Cole went from being a real potential Governor to an also-ran in just weeks.
While purchasing of prizes remains beyond the apparent right for the public to know, according to Justice, questions abound.
For instance, constant statehouse rumors held that the vehicles being given as prizes were being purchased out of state. Justice has now said at least that isn’t true.
But bidding specs appear to have been superseded because of the pandemic. Bid regulations say public bids can be skipped only in direct response to emergencies. It’s hard to see how giving someone a shot who already had the vaccine qualifies as an “emergency expenditure.”
But floods and other natural disasters have often seen suspension of bid requirements here when it made no sense. And since nothing this administration does makes sense ….
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It’s also widely observed that state crime must be at its lowest level in history since state troopers are reportedly dispatched to locate prize winners for BabyDog’s giveaway.
Winners are allegedly selected on Monday and then Justice travels the state Wednesday awarding the prizes. But for him to award them, the winners must be located and agree to be at a certain place at a pre-arranged time.
Finding the winners is said to be the troopers’ duty. So when not on BabyDog Potty Patrol, trained law enforcement officers are locating John Doe the pickup truck winner.
What a waste of highly skilled and trained public servants. Crime has not been wiped out, folks.
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Wouldn’t one think that fiscally-responsible conservative Republican legislators would have the same questions we do?
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Meanwhile, back to state Republican politics, it’s safe to say new party Executive Director John Findlay, does, indeed, remain in possession of the same people skills he displayed as director of Virginia’s state GOP.
State and Mingo Republican officials remained adamant in selecting Audrey Smith as one nominee for the county commission vacancy left by her late husband,Gavin. The fact that she is ineligible due to being a registered independent at the time of his death is of no concern. So determined were Mingo Chair Bo Copley and Findlay that they allowed no speaking at the meeting to select nominees last week. After all, some peon might have said something to upset the game plan.
So it was a public meeting with no public input. Another great Harris-Findlay production.
Lawsuits will now be filed to force Mingo officials to follow the law — a unique concept in Williamson.
Findlay smugly told one Republican present, “if you file suit, you lose.” What a GOP friend-maker this guy is.
It’s just more of Harris dismantling the Republican party.
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Regardless of your Covid vaccination stand, we all agree that contracting the illness is a true tragedy.
The sad news from Nashville that one of my favorite conservative talk show hosts is hospitalized with it brings great sorrow.
Phil Valentine is a reasonable voice of conservatism. He now says he regrets being skeptical of the Covid vaccine.
I’m sure hoping he recovers quickly.
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Add Pleasants County Republican Trenton Barnhart to the list of Good Guys seeking re-election to the House of Delegates next year. He also currently represents Ritchie County.
Barnhart is a hard-working, conservative, in dedicated public servant who takes his job very seriously.
Although like everyone else, he’ll have a newly-defined district in 2022, he should be a re-election favorite.
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Now let’s all go marvel as Justice, Harris and Findlay operate at a level far above our lowly comprehension.
Ron Gregory is a regular political columnist and reporter at lootpress.com. Contact him at 304-533-5185; firstname.lastname@example.org; or PO Box 20297, Charleston, WV 25362