By all normal standards, Governor Jim Justice should be a lame duck. Instead, he’s the most powerful governor West Virginia ever had. It’s amazing to watch.
In modern history, most folks would settle on the late Republican Governor Arch A. Moore Jr. and Democrat Joe Manchin as powerhouses. Moore usually scores highest when Mountain State residents are asked to name the best governor in history.
Moore was so adept at handling the Democrat legislature that he could build the Cultural Center under their noses without ever explaining how he paid for it. Manchin joked about that during his eulogy at Moore’ s memorial services inside the center itself.
Manchin had pretty much a rubber stamp Democrat legislature and ruled without much in the way of checks and balances.
But their power is not at all impressive in the Justice era.
Think of it.
Justice can thumb his nose at the constitutional requirement that the Governor “reside at the seat of government” during his term of office. When last we checked, this governor’s home in Lewisburg was not the state capitol. Yet he commutes there to spend his nights, doesn’t deny it, and defies anyone to do anything about it.
The case brought by former Democrat Delegate Isaac Sponaugle to force Justice to live in Charleston is still pending.
Perhaps the most overwhelming show of influence came when Justice just arbitrarily moved the state’s 2020 primary election. He may not have been alone in that decision, having at least the tacit support of Secretary of State Mac Warner and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. But Justice ran the train that moved the primary a month later than the law allows.
Nobody actually takes sole credit for moving the primary from May to June, defying the law which clearly says it “shall be” in May. No clause says, “unless there’s a pandemic.”
The primary date move is just a portion of Justice’s running the state by executive order for a year now. No special legislative session; no oversight by the alleged peoples’ representatives. Justice rules the roost.
Then there’s the recent appointment of Jacob Booth to the vacant 19th House of Delegates seat. The law and historic precedent is clear on that one too. But not only does the Supreme Court side with the Governor and ignore the law, they barely take five seconds to reach their decision.
They wanted to take no chance Justice’s appointee would miss a second in his seat representing the people who elected him — that being Justice.
The Wayne County Republican Executive Committee was simply pushed aside by their GOP governor and Little Evan and the Supremes okayed it.
King James I. Or simply, God Almighty Jim. Will he run roughshod over the legislature and court system for four more years? When will they figure out that he’s a lame duck?
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With the stroke of a pen, the tyrant Abraham Lincoln removed the duly-elected “Governor” of the “Restored Government of Virginia” and installed his personal choice in 1865. State Republicans have supported dictatorships ever since.
We should have expected it, I suppose.
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We joke on the Tom Roten Morning Show that the constitution can’t be followed because it has apparently been lost or stolen.
In fact, the Secretary of State is the keeper of the Great Seal but nobody is charged with keeping up with the constitution. No wonder it’s nowhere to be found.
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While I was editing in Clay County, I often referred to the “Pisgah Code” taking precedence over state law in that jurisdiction.
Named for “Pisgah Ridge,” a locale outside the county seat, I explained that the “Pisgah Code” was unwritten. In that way it was ideal for county officials. Since it was oral, it could be changed regularly to adapt to any situation.
Perhaps the “Pisgah Code” now rules the entire state.
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Justice and the Republican supermajorities are hellbent on eliminating the state personal income tax. Never mind that there’s no public outcry for the cut, Justice again knows what’s best for us better than we know ourselves.
Of course in order to do away with the personal income tax, everything from severance taxes to sales taxes must be increased. The Governor says raising the severance tax on coal, oil and gas will somehow cause the state’s economy to “take off like a rocket ship.”
There again he knows so much more than we peons do. I’d think raising coal fees would HURT the industry.
What do I know about it, though?
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Court watchers believe Kanawha County Senior Assistant Prosecutor Maryclaire Akers has the inside track to be appointed by Justice to fill the unexpired term of the late Circuit Judge Charles King.
Senior Status Judge Dan O’Hanlon has been temporarily filling in for King, who passed away unexpectedly a month ago. The former Cabell judge has drawn positive reviews for his swift handling of cases on the docket.
The state Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission submitted four names to Justice for the judge position. In addition to Akers, they are Kanawha Family Court Judge Kenneth Ballard, Kanawha Law Clerk Christine Fox and Charleston attorney Benjamin Mishoe.
King left large shoes to fill, having served since 1988 when he died on December 28.
Akers prosecuted cases before King and is married to J.B. Akers, who was the Republican candidate for Mayor in the last Charleston city election. Fox was King’s law clerk. Ballard ran unopposed for re-election in 2016 and has served as Chief Family Court Judge.
Voters will finish filling the term at the May 2022 election.
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Meanwhile, Southern District U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart has announced he will step down February 28.
It is customary for U.S. attorneys to resign when a different party wins the White House.
Stuart was appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump and his days were numbered when Democrat Joe Biden was elected.
The U.S. Attorney position is clearly a presidential appointment. At one time, it was customary for outgoing U.S attorneys to resign when election results became known.
But Stuart told friends in November that most no longer follow that practice. He said he planned to stay until Biden asked him to leave.
That may have happened within the last two weeks. Media reports said Biden asked all but two GOP attorneys to step down nationwide.
Stuart has never hidden his political ambitions. He maintained a high profile during his tenure as federal prosecutor and many think he has his eye on a gubernatorial bid in 2024. Justice is term-limited and cannot run for re-election.
Stuart wrote this in his resignation letter to Biden, “It has been my distinct honor to serve as a United States Attorney, particularly because it was in service to the people of West Virginia. I’ve had a love affair with the people of West Virginia from my very first breath. It is a love affair that will continue to my very last breath and until I rest within the brilliance of God’s creation of these ‘Country Roads.’”
Sounds like a governor candidate to me.
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Justice can’t run for a third consecutive term, of course, if we decide to adhere to state law in 2024. As we’ve pointed out, there’s serious doubt about that.
Move an election? Spend millions without legislative approval? Then why worry about term limits?
Ron Gregory is a regular columnist and covers state government for lootpress.com. Contact him at 304-533-5185 or email@example.com.