I will resume next week writing about some of the many former Loganites who originated in Logan County and went on to make their marks in life in various ways — from the high ranking political world of the likes of Mel Cottone of Mt. Gay, who headed the national campaigns of former presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, as well as many other politicos, to Hollywood movie stars and a world champion boxer, Jack Dempsey — the county that was named after an Indian chieftain, despite a despicable political past, still has much to be proud about.
Nonetheless, this week I’m taking a break from the usual to address some other matters of local interest.
For instance, history was made right before our eyes as recently as the June 9 primary election in Logan County, yet I’d bet not too many people realize why. As a guy who has looked at about every newspaper ever printed at The Logan Banner through various archives, I can tell you that there has never been a time in Logan County primary election history where candidates for certain local offices were unopposed.
It used to be that Logan County primary elections were political dogfights between usually at least two factions of Democrats, with the winner virtually assured of a victory in the November general election because there weren’t enough Republican voters around the county to field a softball game, even though the city of Logan has had several Republican mayors, beginning in the late 1950s with Litz McGuire and continuing later with Dr. H.H. Cudden, Bob McCormick and Gary Hylton. Still, it was the Democrats who elected these men come November elections.
After years of Democratic domination beginning in 1932 following the Great Depression, things dramatically changed almost entirely in southern West Virginia because of two names — Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Both the former president and the wanted-to-be first female president of these un-United States condemned the mining of coal, which left local people with no other legal financial avenue to migrate, except to another state to seek employment.
Despite years of warnings and a total lack of governmental vision that covers decades, too many people never dreamed of the eventual end to coal mining, which experts feel is near. As the son of a coal miner and the grandson of another — who grew up in a coal camp community surrounded by coal miners and their families — I have always felt that government and coal industry leaders, for the most part, never cared about anything more than the production of coal and the profits and taxes it generated, especially since the end of Island Creek Coal Company’s local reign.
So, I guess when someone like Donald Trump puts on a mining cap and proclaims his love for coal mining, it is only natural for the vast majority of people living in these hills and hollows to pledge their allegiance to a man who likely will go down in antiquity ranked as the worst president in our country’s history. Nevertheless, the fact is, at least with Trump there is some sort of hope that the coal industry could come booming back. What other hope can there be?
I couldn’t care less of one’s political affiliation. I don’t care if you’re classified as a liberal or a conservative. I don’t care if you are black or white. I don’t care if you’re rich or poor. In fact, I don’t even know if I’m a conservative Democrat or a liberal Republican. What’s the difference?
What I can tell you is that education is the key to every opportunity in life and that it isn’t always an education that leads to a high school or college degree that perpetuates one to a better society. Education, in my opinion, also means educating the public to what is going on in the world that affects them, their families and their livelihood.
From the federal level right on down to the local level, there are backroom decisions made that are not always in the best interest of the people the elected or non-elected officials represent. The only hope a common taxpaying citizen has is, frankly, the news media.
Trust me, without the news media as a watchdog, government would be terribly more corrupt than what it already is. Oftentimes, it is the media, mostly because of investigative reporting, that leads to research and even the FBI uncovering wrongdoings of every kind.
Should the time ever come that the media would be absent from certain meetings, then, and only then, will the governing bodies not fear public retribution for their misleading and sometimes illegal actions. It will at that juncture, more than ever, be a time to make certain those chosen to represent the masses are of the utmost quality and highest integrity.
In the meantime, it appears that of the 25,316 registered voters in Logan County, only about 28% chose to cast their ballots. Of those, only about 29% of the registered Democrats voted, while statistics show about 55% of Republicans cast ballots. However, according to employees of the Logan County Clerk’s office, many of those casting Republican ballots were registered as independents. Also, only about 2% of those voters registered as nonpartisan actually voted a nonpartisan ballot, meaning they could only vote for nonpartisan candidates such as judicial offices and school board positions.
The historical aspect of the recent election is that never has there been a Democrat run unopposed for either sheriff or prosecutor, and that is likely also true of the assessor’s office, although former assessor Tom Godby may be one exception. Of course, when you consider that no other person challenged county commission candidates of either party (Democrat Ed White and Republican Diana Barnette), as well the State Senate candidates of each party also being unopposed, then one could surmise that the lack of opposition helped to account for a lesser voter turnout, particularly on the Democratic side of the fence.
In addition, magistrate candidates Joe Mendez and I also were unopposed as nonpartisan judicial officials. So, what all of this adds up to in my opinion is an interesting November general election in which Ralph Rodighiero will face off against Rupie Phillips in the State Senate race, while P.D. Clemens will battle Chris Trent for sheriff and Ed White will square off against Diana Barnette for a county commission seat.
It will be interesting to see how the Democrats align themselves when it comes to both the race for governor and president. Personally, I suspect there will be a host of split-ticket voters come November, with few “true” Republicans or Democrats crossing over.
One thing about the primary election I can’t help but point out is that the candidacy of George Howes for House of Delegates just may be part of a state record. George, who is a 1971 Logan High School graduate, first ran for public office in 1988 for magistrate. I believe I’m correct in saying that he has run three times for magistrate, once for county clerk, once for circuit clerk, once for county commission, and at least twice for House of Delegates. I’m also thinking that he sought a school board seat at one time, too.
This year, with even the support of the so-called “powers-to-be” behind him, he lost by over 400 votes to a much more qualified Susan Perry, who will be the Democratic candidate in November for the House of Delegates.
I should add that George, who I’m told is a great-great-great grandson of Devil Anse Hatfield, won election to the Democratic Executive Committee in Island Creek District sometime back in, I believe, the 1990s.
If the above information concerning his candidacies is not a state record, I will be surprised.
Bits and pieces
By the time you read this article, it will be the kickoff of Logan’s Freedom Festival, block party and fireworks display, which begins today and runs through the July 4th holiday. With surrounding county fairs and fireworks displays being cancelled due to the virus that continues to spread nationwide, and vendors coming from different areas, I don’t know whether to expect a large turnout due to the other cancellations, or whether people will not be willing to take the risk of contracting the disease and just stay away.
What I do hope is that younger people realize that, although they may not get sick from the virus, it can still be contracted by them and spread to their parents, grandparents and others when you return home.
I would also hope that people are intelligent enough to at least wear a facemask.
As a friend said, “There would be a Freedom Festival, even if you had to step over dead bodies in the streets of Logan.”
Let’s hope not, I have to work nights until Saturday.
Have a safe and happy holiday.