It is a bit disconcerting when we must celebrate the onset of “freedom” that we should already have.
But, across political philosophies, Americans are excited about the loosening of government mandates regarding the Covid pandemic.
Governor Jim Justice, our local compassionate dictator, announced he will lift the mask mandate on June 20 and West Virginians jumped for joy. Mountaineers may always be free but not so during a pandemic.
And is there any scientific or actual data that indicates mask freedom is logical that day and not before — or after?
Some in stores and restaurants still serve as “mask police” regardless. One man last week snapped at me in Shoney’s, “you don’t have a mask on.” How observant he was.
“The science” and medical professionals have been nowhere near united on the value of mask wearing, period. But the overwhelming majority of West Virginians — including the liberty loving State Senate — has followed Justice mandates blindly. Even without mask regulations, business owners and customers have been scared enough by mask-required rhetoric, that they’ll likely insist on masks in their caskets once they’ve passed and gone.
It’s a sad state of affairs that so few are inclined to not question — much less challenge — governmental authority.
There’s nothing we can do about it so I agree with readers who think we should probably quit analyzing. But did you ever think we’d reach a point where our own government orders us to change our personal habits and the majority simply complies? I surely didn’t think we would.
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Memorial Day (which, coincidentally, coincides with my birthday this year) is a time for remembrance.
We may have become much too casual in remembering the sacrifices of thousands in the name of freedom. That can well contribute to the sheep-like manner in which the citizenry has accepted government rule during the pandemic.
This generation has never suffered the agony of a world war or the real possibility that foreign forces might invade our land.
Complacency leads to apathy and apathy apparently leads to people who just do what they’re told. Look at the Chinese as an example.
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There are many who express concerns that the legislature will not get redistricting done in time for the 2022 election.
While the filing period for 2022 candidates is just seven months away, I still think this super-majority Republican legislature will get it done.
In fact, as I’ve said before, my guess is that maps are already drawn and legislative leadership has a good idea on how redistricting will unfold.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the state is losing a congressman and those revised districts will either be north-south or east-west. In either case, I suspect the result will be two congressional districts designed to favor Republican Congressman David McKinley and Representative Carol Miller. Current GOP Congressman Alex Mooney will likely be the odd man redistricted out.
That’s despite the fact that McKinley proved to be the true RINO many say he is by being one of only 35 Republicans who voted to create a January 6 Investigation Commission.
Meanwhile, Mooney embellished his GOP credentials by refusing to submit any project requests for the historically corrupt “earmarks” funding that was discontinued under President Obama and Trump but reinstituted with Biden in the White House.
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The biggest news will come from redrawing district lines for the House of Delegates itself. There, the legislators must create 100 single member districts. There are now 67.
While Republicans would like to draw 100 House districts that favor only their party, they know that isn’t realistic. For example, there’s no sensible way to realign current District 37 to even make incumbent Democrat Mike Pushkin vulnerable.
While Republicans loathe Pushkin’s ultra-liberal voting record and rhetoric, they know he is completely in step with his constituents. Even if a new district is drawn there, it is definitely still going to be liberal leaning no matter how you slice it.
The biggest challenge to legislative redistricting may be the loss of population in the southern coalfields combined with Eastern Panhandle growth.
There will be other changes as well. Many, especially in the Putnam County end, believe the current District 22’s inclusion of the Hurricane portion of Putnam makes no sense.
Aside from loyalty to their state, voters in Lincoln, Boone and Logan have little in common with Hurricane.
Visit the depressed coal camps in Boone and tell me they have any similarity to the bustling Putnam city. That district, now represented by two conservative Republicans — Zack Maynard and Joe Jeffries — will be seriously reconfigured.
The requirements that delegate districts must be contiguous and equal in population make the job complicated, especially when Republicans want to maintain their GOP majority, which is now 78-22.
If two single-member districts are created from the current 22nd, it will be fascinating to watch how that goes.
Cabell County’s District 16 will be fun, too. There, two Republicans — Daniel Linville and John Mandt, Jr. — and Democrat Sean Hornbuckle currently serve.
Sixteen is difficult to follow as well since it makes little sense to have portions of Lincoln County, particularly West Hamlin, in with Cabell. The differences may not be as obvious as in 22 but they are still there.
An even more interesting restructure could occur in Southern West Virginia’s District 27. There are now three delegates representing that district and all are Republicans. The three — Joe Ellington, Marty Gearheart and Doug Smith — should end up in separate districts. Obviously, Republicans would not want to set up match-ups between Republican incumbents, when possible.
The 27th was formerly represented by Republican Eric Porterfield, who distinguished himself with horrendous comments and obvious prejudices of a far-right winger while serving a term. After his offensive performance, he ended up fifth in a five-person 2020 GOP primary.
Democrat Tina Russell, whose initial urge to run in 2020 was inspired by Porterfield, has announced she is running again.
In declaring her 2022 candidacy, Russell was still vocal about Porterfield. In a Facebook.post, Russell explained her reasoning.
“I was asked why run for office again?” she wrote. “The Delegate with bigoted views that inspired you to run lost his primary. I’m running again because the delegates who never spoke out against him are still there. Help me continue the fight for all my neighbors.”
A photo of Porterfield accompanied the post.
It was clear throughout his two-year tenure, that Republicans were embarrassed by Porterfield’s behaviour and comments. There was talk of censuring him or removing him.from the House but neither happened.
Russell is a bright, articulate candidate who could give whichever Republican incumbent she ends up opposing some real trouble in 2022.
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Governor Justice made a major production from the new promotions campaign by the West Virginia Turnpike Authority that will attempt to highlight reasons travellers should visit various state attractions.
In doing so, the Governor and Authority hope to cause those traveling the turnpike to visit more often or take time to visit the promoted attractions on their initial visits.
I have a simpler solution to increase turnpike travel and bring more folks to Beckley, Princeton and the region. Drop the damn tolls that were supposed to end when the road was paid for. Rather than ever end, they have dramatically increased over the years. Under Republican Governor Justice and a solid GOP legislature, they increased even more despite no tax increase pledges.
Take down the toll booths and some of Justice’s anticipated 400,000 people may actually like the place and move here.
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It’s fairly clear that my friend, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, is not Carrie Campbell Severino’s idol.
Severino attacked Morrisey for allegedly becoming less conservative during his tenure as AG. A few local Republicans have voiced similar concerns over the years.
Nevertheless, Morrisey is likely the 2024 Republican candidate for Governor if things don’t change. Certainly far right wing support for the AG is endangered by some of the things Severino brings up.
For the majority who never heard of Severino, she is the president of the Judicial Crisis Network.
Under a column in “Bench Memos,” Severino wrote recently about Morrisey
She begins her column like this, “State attorneys general swear an oath. It’s not to trial lawyers. Not to woke companies. Not to any special interest. They swear an oath to the Constitution. And over the last decade, the country’s conservative AGs have lived up to that oath by serving as indispensable leaders in the fight for the rule of law.”
In that vein, Severino maintains that Morrisey was very conservative in his approach to begin with but has drifted leftward.
She adds, “(it has been) so sad to watch as some of the current AGs drift to the left, or bend over backward to appease woke companies.”
Severino continues, “Morrisey burst onto the political scene during the Obama administration helping to lead the charge against unconstitutional federal overreach. Now, he seems to be falling into the worst habits of the political swamp.
“Perhaps no case better illustrates General Morrisey’s first term as attorney general than West Virginia v. EPA, in which he took the lead against the “Clean Power Plan,” the Obama-era version of the Green New Deal. And he rode his reputation as a champion for the rule of law all the way to the cusp of the United States Senate, falling just shy of becoming another key Republican vote in that body.”
It was then, she speculates, that “General Morrisey lost his way.”
She goes on, “Starting in 2019, Morrisey adopted the strained legal theories that progressive climate activists and anti-gun groups have long used in their efforts to shut down the energy and firearm industries: public nuisance claims against companies that sell legal, regulated products.”
Likewise, she does not like Morrisey’s handling of the opioid crisis.
“Morrisey initially filed dubious claims against opioid manufacturers and wholesale distributors. More recently, he decided to stretch his discredited legal theories to the max by lobbing them against pharmacies such as Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart, claiming that they too were liable. He went so far as to allege that these pharmacies were liable because they dispensed opioids to customers, even though they did so when filling valid prescriptions written by doctors who were registered by the DEA, licensed by the state of West Virginia, and often approved by the state-run Medicaid or federal Medicare programs. And at every step of Morrisey’s public-nuisance odyssey, he has brought along his ambulance-chasing pals at Motley Rice,” she alleges.
Like Morrisey, Motley Rice is clearly not among Severino’s favorites.
“Motley Rice may be a law firm, but looking under the hood reveals something more like a high-powered, left-wing political-influence shop. The firm and its employees gave over $2.5 million to federal PACs, committees, and candidates from 2017–2020. That is more than $25,000 per lawyer, before even considering state-specific political committees or races like governor or attorney general. That is a staggering per-lawyer sum that puts Motley Rice up there with D.C.’s most famous influence operations; just consider that Perkins Coie, the law firm of choice for the Democratic National Committee, gave at one-tenth the per-lawyer rate at which Motley Rice gave from 2017–2020.
“And Motley Rice has a funny habit of funding exactly the causes that Morrisey would have never aligned himself with when he entered office in 2012. Part of Motley Rice’s immense political generosity goes to the main trial lawyers’ political arm, American Association for Justice PAC, which in the last four-year cycle sent quarter-million-dollar-plus donations to some of the largest left-wing groups, including pro-abortion super PAC Emily’s List, Eric Holder’s Democratic Redistricting Committee, and Priorities USA Action Fund, a leading Super PAC that was recently flagged by Bloomberg as being one of the hubs through which a record amount of liberal dark money flowed to support Biden during the last election,” she goes on by listing more left wing spending by the firm.
“Morrisey knows that he is teaming up with the left,” she says. “That is why he has been trying to hide the involvement of certain contract lawyers by launching his public-nuisance suits with only lawyers from his office on the pleadings, only to come back a few weeks later and make all the required declarations necessary to hire liberal lawyers and formally put them on the case.”
“It is sad to see once-promising politicians such as Morrisey fall like this, because we need principled leaders, and especially principled attorneys general, more than ever,” Severino concludes.
It will be interesting to see how much right wing opposition Morrisey ignites over the next 3-½ years. I will guarantee one thing: far right folks will never convince Democrats that this AG has a liberal bone in his body.