Perhaps laying to rest repeated rumors that he would retire at the end of his current term in 2022, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw filed pre-candidacy papers Friday afternoon.
Assuming he follows through, Hanshaw indicated plans to run for re-election as a member of the House of Delegates from Clay County.
Consistent statehouse rumors during the recent legislative session had Hanshaw retiring from politics to devote full time to his well-established law practice in Charleston.
Goodness knows there is little reward for trying to marshal a supermajority of legislators to accomplish great things for the people. As a legislative GOP attorney when Republicans were in the minority, Hanshaw drew widespread praise from his party’s legislators.
As Speaker with 77 supposedly supportive fellow Republicans, his every move is suspect and open to criticism. He’s now the big fish in a bigger pond.
A rare find is the GOP legislator who has nothing but praise for Speaker Hanshaw. Most Republican colleagues would whisper “he’s weak” if asked to evaluate his leadership. They say that primarily because “he won’t stand up to the Governor.” Of course, neither will most of them.
I have repeatedly joined with those who criticized the just-past legislative session as a disappointment. After a year of insisting they’d do something to reign in Governor Jim Justice’s tyranny during the Covid pandemic if given an opportunity, Republicans did virtually nothing.
All other legislation paled in the minds and hearts of GOP patriots who hoped some degree of freedom might be restored by immediately taking off the masks. Defeating Justice’s proposed budget, 100-0, proved nothing. If Democrats joined to make it unanimous, you can bet the vote was symbolic at best.
Becoming Speaker is a double-edged sword. While it brings power to its holder, some of that is more perception than reality. On the other hand, the leader is an open game for criticism when ANYTHING goes wrong.
Frankly, I have always found Hanshaw as honest as the day is long with a tremendous devotion to what’s good for the state.
While filing pre-candidacy doesn’t mean he’s absolutely running for re-election, it’s a good sign. The state is a better place with Roger Hanshaw in the legislature.
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Meanwhile, Cabell Republican Delegate John Mandt, Jr. tells me he is considering all options for next year. Part of his ultimate decision will be based on House redistricting, he says.
The legislature is committed to making the House into 100 single-member districts beginning in 2022. Currently, Mandt is in the multi-member 16th District with Democrat Sean Hornbuckle and fellow Republican Daniel Linville.
One option Mandt is considering is running for the State Senate. There, the term of incumbent Democrat Mike Woelfel in current District Five will be expiring.
Mandt said he likes Woelfel and considers him a friend, “but the two of us have talked about running against each other sometime. It would be a good, clean campaign with no name-calling or personal issues,” he said.
Despite his party’s minority status, Woelfel works hard and is accessible and effective. It would be an interesting race if these two oppose each other.
Of course, redistricting will also occur in the State Senate so things could change there as well.
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The recent exchange between Governor Justice and Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter Phil Kabler is a continuation of their personal feud.
I don’t disagree with Kabler’s criticism of Justice’s tardiness for his Covid press briefings.
Nearly a year ago I mentioned that it was tough to have total confidence in the medical recommendations of a Governor who couldn’t make it to a briefing on time. And the Wednesday lateness that reached more than an hour was apparently the last straw for Kabler.
So the reporter pointed out that late slip along with reminding Justice he was 17 minutes late the next day. “So, what’s your story?” Kabler asked.
Justice did an eye roll (though nothing compared to the face of General Hoyer while Kabler asked the question) before basically lowering Kabler to below sea level in terms of character.
The Governor even brought up Kabler “making fun” of a statehouse employee he had played a trick on.
While I would defend Kabler’s question to Justice (but not his bragging about playing the trick the Governor mentioned), it really seemed like pretty much a waste of time during a limited-time emergency briefing.
Justice’s defense that into the life of every governor, a crisis or emergency sometimes arises was to be expected. He didn’t mention the defense that virtually every Governor and President is habitually late for press encounters.
Which reminds me that some reporters used to joke about then-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin being punctual. “What else does Earl Ray have to do?” they’d laugh.
Here’s where I must do my usual disclaimer. Tomblin worked hard, did his best, and is one of my favorite occupants of the Governor’s Office. But it was a funny comment when he arrived repeatedly on time.
Now back to Kabler/Justice. The two appear to dislike each other although I find it difficult to dislike Justice personally. He’s a perfect kindly grandfather figure in public. That apparently isn’t true in private, so maybe he’s rubbed Kabler the wrong way one-on-one.
Whatever. Justice took more than four minutes to tell the reporter what a disgrace he (Kabler) is to the state and his employer. He added that we will all be better off if Kabler “just goes away.”
The Governor emphasized that nothing Kabler does or says bothers him. He sure spent a lot of time and made his response pretty personal if he wasn’t perturbed by the criticism.
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Can’t we all just get along?
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What, inquiring minds want to know, does Justice intend to do with the Hulett C. Smith House in Beckley?
Clearing trees and brush all around it, some have speculated he’d like to turn the historic private property into a casino.
Two immediate problems with that scenario are that special legislation would be required to authorize another casino and the location in Beckley would surely be competition for his current casino at The Greenbrier Resort.
Frankly, the late Governor Smith’s mansion should be preserved as a historic site. Hulett Smith was a good man, even if he was a Democrat.
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I sometimes feel the pain of Southern West Virginia politicians who are stereotyped as the shadiest of the shady. For every crooked political enterprise South of Route 60, there’s just as many in the Northern portion.
While I don’t claim to know much about it, there are apparently law enforcement officials who think Berkeley County Clerk Elaine Mauck did something crooked. Even after reading the complaint in her case, it’s a little difficult to figure just what she did or her motives.
Bizarre would be a good description perhaps.
Mauck made history when she was elected to the Berkeley County Council and made it when appointed to the county clerk position. She was the first female in both positions. That’s a couple of seemingly positive “firsts.” But then, as with Joshua or Humpty Dumpty (depending which fairy tale you prefer), the walls recently came tumbling down.
Or, more appropriately, the storage unit locks were removed. The latest word from Martinsburg is that Mauck has been charged with felony breaking and entering and felony petit larceny for allegedly, with two accomplices, breaking into storage units owned by the former Berkeley County Clerk, the late John W. Small.
Hmmm. There must be intrigue here that even one as wise as I don’t comprehend. According to court documents, her bail was set at $7,500.
The Martinsburg Journal explains, “According to the arraignment, the case was initially handled by West Virginia State Trooper Cathey, who received a complaint on April 27 about four storage units whose locks had been cut and broken into.
“Court records state that in the time Cathey worked the incident he spoke with Julia Small, the widow of former Clerk John W. Small, who had rented the units initially, as well as the manager of the store unit facility.”
Small, the clerk, passed away in February with Mauck appointed to replace him.
That may be as much as we can declare to be absolutely factual. While the Journal makes a valiant effort to make some sense of the whole fiasco, any reader is welcome to look the pertinent stories up at their Website and make some sense of it all for your humble but lovable commentator.
Involved are such intriguing factors as a sudden, unexplained change in investigators from one trooper to another.
The Small widow appears to have originally been outside the information loop on the storage units and their contents but everyone seems to agree Mauck cut the locks and retrieved some boxes.
Apparently, this Journal comment should provide some clue to the shenanigans: “Court records stated it was noted that Mauck allegedly has an extensive background in antiques and had allegedly told Larkin (the storage unit manager) that one of the units rented by Small had a lot of items worth money in them.
“Larkin claimed Mauck told him that, if he wanted, he could sell these items separately to generate more money than what was owed in delinquent payments on the units, records state.”
At some point, Mauck claimed to have previous knowledge of possible “County” property in the units and wanted to look for them. Cutting locks off storage units seems a strange way for a public official to launch an investigation.
Three boxes assumed to have been taken were eventually turned over to law enforcement. They contained old black-and-white family photos with frames, Lions Club hats, small American Flags, old bills and invoices, mail for John W. Small, an old Army-style helmet with Small’s name on it, and several books, totaling less than $1,000 in value, the complaint says.
Berkeley County Council President Doug Copenhaver declined to comment to the Journal on Mauck’s charges. Surprise, surprise … surprise, as Gomer would say. He was likely speechless.
And they think weird things happen in Mingo County politics.
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No word on whether the Governor’s Chief of Staff Brian Abraham called House of Delegates Chief of Staff Dan Greear to tell him he would not be considered by Justice for the Kanawha Circuit Judge vacancy created by Tod Kaufman’s resignation “today” or not.
One can recall that Abraham emphatically denied pressuring state GOP Executive Committee members “today” when asked about his calls on behalf of the lackadaisical new state chair, Mark Harris.
I’m told that Abraham, tactfully of course, reminded Greear that the House voted 100-0 against Justice’s personal income tax reduction plan during the most recent session. Therefore, as I heard it, Abraham let Greear know Justice was not happy with the former Kanawha Circuit Judge.
Bullying, Logan and Greenbrier style, is still a hallmark of the Justice administration it seems.
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The Governor’s ultimate pick for the vacancy, former Kanawha Family Court Judge Kenneth Ballard, is said to be a close friend of Abraham. He became a Family Court Judge in 2009.
Ron Gregory is a regular political columnist who covers state politics for lootpress.com. Contact him at 304-533-5185 or firstname.lastname@example.org.