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Governor will visit light show

Ron Gregory ronjgregory@gmail.com

December 3, 2013

In the spirit of the season, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is scheduled to make a quick visit to Chief Logan State Park this Thursday. It will mark the 20th anniversary of the Christmas in the Park program. Tomblin is set to appear at 5:30 p.m. with the entire event scheduled to last just a half-hour. In doing so, the governor will be near his home base of Chapmanville.


The light show at Chief Logan is one of the premier holiday light shows in the region and annually brings thousands to the park. Among the features are huge, animated scenes that delight young and old alike. There is no admission charge, although donations are accepted.


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After more than three years of working for state Democrat parties, West Virginia’s executive director, Jacob Winowich, has announced he is leaving the state party at the beginning of the new year, 2014.


“After a year of recruiting top-tier candidates and organizing the state’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner for a crowd of 1,600, I’ve decided to explore other opportunities,” said Winowich.


“Jacob’s hard work and dedication to the Democratic Party have been appreciated and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors,” said Larry Puccio, chairman of the Democrat Party of West Virginia.


Puccio said he will be making an announcement about the new executive director soon.


Winowich effectively presided over the J-J Dinner that drew the largest crowd ever when Vice President Joe Biden appeared a few weeks ago.


Winowich was also one of the two party officials who would not allow me (or any member of the press) to ask questions of candidates to replace Josh Stowers in the state house of delegates. That led to the debacle in which one of the nominees, Wendy Elswick, was picked despite pending law license annulment on the horizon. She eventually withdrew from consideration before having her law license suspended.


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With several high-profile races set for 2014, and Republicans determined to win at least one house of the legislature for the first time in decades, whoever is chosen to head the Democrats will have a huge task in front of him or her.


With the entry of State Auditor Glen B. Gainer into the house of representatives contest in the first district, Democrats stand some shot at returning to power there. The seat was last held by a Democrat in Congressman Alan Mollohan. Gainer should be a more than even bet to unseat conservative Republican David McKinley; the current only Democrat, Nick Joe Rahall, will be a heavy favorite in the third district; and Democrat Nick Casey stands a real shot at a picked-up seat for the party in the second. The second district has been represented by Republican Shelley Moore Capito, daughter of the legendary former Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr.


Regardless of which Republican wins the GOP nomination in May 2014, he or she will not have the overwhelming prospects of victory that Capito had. She is leaving the house to seek a seat in the U.S. Senate. There, Democrat Secretary of State Natalie Tennant will provide tough opposition. Tennant is the incumbent secretary who does not have to give up her existing position to challenge Capito for the seat long held by Democrat Jay Rockefeller. Rockefeller is retiring at the end of 2014.


Gainer’s moderate positions coupled with his family legacy in the Parkersburg area will create quite a challenge for McKinley, who is more Tea Party than moderate as the sitting congressman. Casey is also relatively moderate and will bring in a number of business-oriented voters who usually vote Republican in the second district. While I believe the second tends to be a Republican district, Casey is at least an even bet to bring the seat to the Democrats.


Republicans will attempt to link all the Democrats to unpopular President Barack Obama. I have said several times that I think that tactic is stale and will not sell well with voters in 2014. If Republicans fail to tell the voters what they are FOR, it will be a long general election night for them in November. Heretofore, GOP candidates have been able to hammer the disliked president and gain votes. I do not think that is enough in 2014.


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Speaking of which, it would have been good for the GOP if Tea Partiers, such as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, had just allowed the President’s health care program to fail on its own. By attempting to derail the Affordable Health Care Act. Republicans made the whole thing appear like partisan bickering. As has been seen, sign-ups and everything else associated with the program have been a disaster. They should have left it alone to die of its own weight. If that had happened, the GOP likely would have held on to the house of representatives and even gained the senate in 2014.


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Holiday light shows are, as some readers know, among my personal, professional passions. I was proud to have started the light show at Charleston’s Daniel Boone Park and I took pride in the Lights of Coonskin at Coonskin Park.


Some have inquired about the situation at Coonskin, where Kanawha County Commissioner David Hardy and The Charleston Gazette decided to announce that I, as director of the light show, was soliciting donations without authorization. Although i have said little about it, suffice it to say that Hardy and The Gazette are lifelong political enemies of mine. Also, readers should perhaps be aware that the park system “discovered” my written contract that spelled out the terms of my solicitation for the lights. Rumors to the contrary are just not true.


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Those who would like to discredit me, and thus the true and honest thoughts in this column, often turn to anonymous comments. I, on the other hand, do nothing anonymously and proudly attach my name to any opinion I choose to voice. Those who sometimes accuse me of using fake names to argue with critics on the Internet and elsewhere are, simply, wrong.


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Republicans may have fallen short of their goal for recruiting Democrat legislators to turn Republican in 2014. After State Senator Evan Jenkins decided to commit political suicide by challenging Rahall for congress, only Delegate Ryan Ferns of Ohio County made the switch to the GOP in time to file as a Republican in January.


Republicans were clearly energized and openly solicited a number of Democrats. One target was State Senator Daniel Hall, who once was a member of the GOP. But Hall told associates he had no intention of switching. If Republican leaders didn’t solicit Delegate Rupie Phillips, it must be because they didn’t want him since Phillips openly stood at Yeager Airport and protested the visit of Democrat Vice President Biden. With no change in his registration, Phillips will have to run as a Democrat in 2014.


Ferns, who was arrested for drunk driving in 2012 and won re-election despite (or perhaps, in Ohio County, because) of the charge, also announced he is running for the state senate next year. My prediction is that is another GOP disaster and the incumbent Democrat will easily win re-election. Rocky Fitzsimmons will prove too difficult for the errratic Ferns, in my opinoin.


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Voters may recall that Ferns vacillated on running for re-election after the drunken driving charge. Finally, he stayed on the ticket and won re-election. Those same voters may also remember that Ferns was the only Democrat who voted for Republican Tim Armstead of Kanawha County for speaker of the house. Democrat Speaker Tim Miley did not earn Ferns’ vote but expressed surprise that Ferns switched parties. Nobody would know why that would surprise anyone, especially Miley.


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Meanwhile, politicos were wondering about the cast of characters in the widely-spread photo of Ferns changing his registration. Senators present were Bill Cole and Mitch Carmichael from the GOP side. Thar was fascinating since Republican Minority Leader Mike Hall was nowhere to be seen.


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Observers wondered if Ferns’ conversion and the array of talent beside him indicated more in Cole’s bid to “take over” leadership of state senate Republicans. That would, of course, be a prelude to Cole’s rise to governor in 2016. While Cole denies to some that he is organizing such efforts, it appears obvious that he is.


What is the logic of a Republican senator from Mercer County posing with a new convert from Ohio while the majority leader, from centrally-located Putnam County, is not present?


Cole plans on leading senate Republicans when, in his deluded state, they take control of the senate in 2014. Then, voters will see his obvious talent and leadership potential and overwhelmingly make him the first GOP governor since Cecil Underwood.


Dream on, Alice … er, Bill.


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It is re-election time next year for the Sixth District’s “other” senator, H. Truman Chafin. It will be interesting to see who files for that seat.


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Your comments, rumors and story ideas are welcome. Email me at the address listed or call my cell, 304-533-5185. All contact is confidential unless the caller requests otherwise.