Ron Gregory

January 28, 2014

Last week, when my forehead met the pavement outside the statehouse, I came to myself wondering if I had offended the wrong politician this time. Sporting a black eye, I have yet to receive a personal apology from Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, which would preclude my instituting a lawsuit for the ice that remained on the sidewalk days after the last snowfall.

The doctor for the day and the nurse did a good job of responding to my bleeding and bruises and I am thankful for that. Now, if I’d only hear from the governor ….

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I hate lawsuits.

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Speaking of Governor Tomblin, who I stil believe is one of the finest men to ever occupy the chair, it might just be better if he didn’t mention the water problem again.

Lately and formerly, he has insisted that state agencies have no jurisdiction over the chemicals that were stored just feet from West Virginia-American’s water intake on the Elk River. Journalists (by definition that does NOT include The Charleston Gazette) have found, of course, that the state DID have jurisdiction even before the governor introduced a new bill giving them control.

As I said, it might be better just to remain silent for a while, governor.

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Since the list of candidates I must address is so lengthy, we may not have space to do much else in this issue. On the other hand, we might. Don’t go to sleep … yet.

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In Mingo County, where I have quickly become a household word (don’t ask me to repeat the words), it seems elements of Team Mingo were meeting just prior to the filing deadline to map out a strategy for 2014. That at least one of the indicted Team members was present doesn’t sound good to me, but what do I know about politics?

United States Attorney for the Southern District, Booth Goodwin, a card-carrying Democrat, called Team Mingo a “corrupt political faction.” Remember, that was Goodwin; not me.

I also suspect photos and advertisements of the previous Team Mingo candidates will appear regularly during this campaign, although it may not be helpful to Team members. We shall see.

The Williamson Daily News has done a fine job of reporting who the candidates are this time in Mingo. Suffice it to say, at this point, that I believe there is no better public servant than Big Jim Hatfield, who has thrown his hat in the ring for county commissioner. Big Jim does not have to give up his county clerk position to run but he is the type of public servant dearly needed in Mingo. The fact that he makes a great bologna sandwich doesn’t hurt, either.

I was a bit surprised that Team Mingo appears to have foregone yet another primary challenge to Democrat State Senator H. Truman Chafin. Although putting someone on might have finally gotten me ON Chafin’s payroll, it appears the Team is concentrating on holding its own at the county level.

I will definitely comment on the other races in a future column. Let me note again that items in this column are mine and mine alone. They do not necessarily (and often do not) represent the views of the staff or management of the newspaper you are reading.

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Michael J. Baisden, a Democrat who knows far more about politics than I (or you) will ever know, has filed for the 20th district house seat currently occupied by Democrat Justin J. Marcum. A Republican (what?), Russell Lee Deskins, has also filed for the position. A Republican? What?

Actually, Deskins is chair of the Mingo County Republicans. Since phone booths no longer exist, they meet in a bus stop house near Gilbert on a regular basis.

Again, we’ll talk more about Mingo local politics in the weeks ahead.

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With the filing deadline at midnight Saturday, it is still possible some mailed applications will arrive both at the Williamson courthouse and the secretary of state’s office in Charleston.

But, at the end of the day Saturday, there were three Democrats and three Republicans running for the U.S. Senate. Republicans included presumptive nominee Shelley Moore Capito, the retiring second district congresswoman; and Larry Eugene Butcher and Matthew Dodrill, both of Wood County. Capito is from Charleston.

Democrats included the presumed nominee, secretary of state Natalie Tennant; Demoris Melton of Lewis County and Donald B. Womsley of Wood.

The two announced candidates for first district congressman also filed. Incumbent Republican David McKinley of Ohio County will meet incumbent State Auditor Glen B. Gainer, II, a Democrat, this fall.

In the second district, where Capito is giving up the GOP seat, there are two Democrats and seven Republicans who had filed before midnight. Democrats include the expected nominee, Charleston attorney Nick Casey and Delegate Meshea L. Poore of Kanawha County. Poore represents the so-called “minority influence district” in downtown Charleston.

Republicans stepping to the plate are Robert Lawrence Fluharty of Jefferson County; former legislator Steve Harrison of Kanawha; former legislator Charlotte Lane of Kanawha; former Maryland GOP state chair Alex X. (what could “X” possibly stand for, by the way?) Mooney; Jim Moss of Putnam; Ken Reed of Morgan; and Ron Walters, Jr. of Kanawha.

At this point in a very early game, I would make Harrison the favorite on the Republican side.

The third district, home to that great Congressman Democrat Nick Joe Rahall, his primary challenger is Richard Ojeda, II of Logan County. Sen. Joe Manchin once called Ojeda a “great American” and brought him to the capitol in Washington. Republicans are now wondering if Manchin will endorse Ojeda over the incumbent Rahall. Advice to GOP: don’t hold your breath waiting.

Republican (I guess) Evan Jenkins of Cabell County is the lone GOP candidate. Jenkins, you may recall, changed his registration from Democrat to GOP specifically to run against Rahall. Oh, yeah, and because the Democrat party has moved away from his philosophy. I forgot that.

State senate races of interest include the fifth, which Jenkins is vacating. There, Democrats Mike Woelfel and Robert Alexander are vying for their party’s nod. Vicki Dunn-Marshall is the GOP contender. In the sixth, as noted, Chafin has no primary opponent but he will get a challenge in the fall. That’s when Republican Mark R. Maynard of Wayne County will be on the ballot. Maynard is a nice fellow. That may be the last positive note you read about him in this space.

In District seven it looks as though Democrat incumbent Ron Stollings is unchallenged in the primary. In the general, he will meet Gary Johngrass, who has a habit of posting some strange things on social media. For example, Johngrass insinuated in one posting that “friends” of his who had not seen his wife, Judy, recently might want to know that he had “taken care” of her. Then, he noted for everyone to read that his political signs were arriving. He also said that he was receiving “free” stakes for the signs. When I pointed out to him that such “free” gifts had to be reported on campaign finance reports, he said they were “included” in the price of the signs. That made me wonder how they were free. Perhaps Johngrass is dealing with the George White print shop.

In District eight, incumbent Democrat Erik Wells will be challenged by Republican Ed Gaunch. Despite being somewhat out of step with district voters (it includes parts of Kanawha and Putnam counties), I would make Wells the odds-on favorite in this one.

Meanwhile, in District 17, two Republicans have lined up to take on incumbent Democrat House member Doug Skaff, Jr. Tom Tabuko and Lance V. Wheeler, not exactly household names, will run for the GOP.

Interestingly, former Republican State Sen. Frank Deem of Parkersburg is running for the house in the 10th Dist.

A host of candidates have lined up to run for the 13th house district seat being vacated by Democrat Brady Paxton. They include five Republicans: Scott Cadle, Tim Gibson, Michael Ihle, Nathan “Nate” Westfall and Jim Butler. Democrats are Jim Dagostine, Joshua Martin (who still owes me $10 from his losing state senate campaign in 2012), Josh McGrath and Johnny Roach. Martin is also famous as a professional wrestler who claims his wrestling personality resulted in him making insulting Internet remarks about women and the elderly. Those were not really HIS views, he has insisted.

Republican Mark Dean has filed as a Republican (what?) to run against incumbent Democrat Harry Keith White in Mingo.

In the 22nd district, incumbent Democrats Joshua Barker of Boone County and Jeff Eldridge of Lincoln will have primary opposition from Gary McCallister of Lincoln. Republicans Michel G. Moffatt and Justin Mullins have also filed. Candidates in that district are reminded that it is NOT necessarily a Lincoln County position. There are parts of three other counties (Putnam, Boone and Logan) in the mix.

Barker gained a level of fame recently for his work as Danville town manager and delegate during the water crisis. Barker actually handed out water to those who needed it.

Democrat Barry L. Brown of Van was the only candidate to file in the 23rd district by midnight. Incumbent Republican Joshua Nelson is on active military duty and had told the state party he would file by mail. His registration may arrive this week.

In the 24th district, incumbents Teddy “Ted” Tomblin and Rupert “Rupie” Phillips, Jr. have filed as Democrats. What can I say about Phillips that I have not already said? Former Democrat Delegate Ralph Rodigherio and David Graham of Logan have also filed. Republicans on the ticket are perennial candidate Billy Marcum and Gloria Meadows.

As an aside, Roger Hanshaw of Clay is challenging Democrat Delegate David A. Walker of Clay, whose greatest claim to fame appears to be that he once called a Chamber of Commerce staffer a “b—-h” during a committee meeting. The episode resulted in a complaint being filed with the speaker’s office who supposedly disciplined Walker “internally,” whatever that means. Hanshaw is a Republican.

The 35th district in Kanawha has picked up a few more candidates since our last report. Nevertheless, I will devote this space to pointing out that satire, which I often use in this column, can obviously sometimes come at inappropriate times. When I mentioned last week that Republican Suzette Raines had not filed at that point for re-election, I added a sarcastic comment. I learned only days later that at about the same time, Raines’ mother was diagnosed with recurring cancer. I regret anything I wrote that added to the Raines family’s suffering. I am totally sympathetic toward Suzette Raines and I apologize sincerely for the hurt I caused. Raines has since filed for re-election.

The candidates for Mingo County judge to replace disgraced Judge Michael Thornsbury are Democrats Jonathan “Duke” Jewell and Teresa McCune. I know Jewell as an honest, sincere man who would serve the county well. Meanwhile, Sen.Chafin has introduced legislation to create a second judge position in the county.

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Rumors, story ideas and comments are welcome, although the writer seldom engages in a running dialogue. Use my email address or call my cell at 304-533-5185. Team Mingo forever.