by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON — The Corridor Chronicle has considered the candidacies of various people running for office in 2016. Below are our endorsements. In most cases, we have chosen the candidates we believe most qualified. In some cases, if an office is not listed, we have chosen to make no endorsement.
The Chronicle has attempted to apply the same logic of fairness and reasonableness to its endorsements as it does in other editorial decisions. For those looking for a special agenda, there is none except the public good as we view it. Endorsements are made without regard to political factions or “teams.” We make the endorsements primarily because readers expect us to. We make no claim to being the ultimate authority on any race and, in many cases, reluctantly issue endorsements because there are others in races that we deem nearly equally qualified.
Without further ado, then, our endorsements for Primary 2016:
For President of the U.S. Republican Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee and has at least mouthed support for the coal industry. Unlike the two major Democrats, Trump says coal will have a bright future under his leadership. We are not totally trusting in that promise but it sounds better than Hillary Clinton’s promise to cost every miner his or her job in eight years.
On the Democrat side, we favor Paul T. Farrell, Jr. of Huntington. A West Virginian for President is not a bad idea, although Farrell lacks the funding and name recognition to be a serious candidate. A vote for him, though, might awaken someone in the Democrat party to the terrible plight they face with either Clinton or Bernie Sanders at the top of the West Virginia ballot.
There is no contested primaries in the First Congressional District. We urge Democrats to vote for their candidate, Mike Manypenny. Republicans should pass on this one, with the ineffective David McKinley seeking re-election. In the Second District, we endorse Republican challenger Marc Savitt, who would be a breath of fresh air compared to incumbent Tea Partier Alex Mooney. On the Democrat side, former Kanawha legislator Mark Hunt is the only experienced, reliable choice.
There’s no contest in District Three, where we commend incumbent Republican Evan Jenkins and urge Democrats to support Matt Detch.
The gubernatorial campaign has turned more than nasty among Democrats in the closing days of the campaign. Negative advertising, verbal swipes and just general sleaze has worked its way into what was a gentle, reasonable campaign in the beginning. Amid it all, though, we must recommend Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice to Democrat voters. We have often praised one of his opponents, Booth Goodwin, and continue to believe he would be a solid choice. Senator Jeff Kessler is much too far to the left to suit us — or West Virginians. Justice is also the only Democrat who will give Republican State Senator Bill Cole a run for his money (literally) in November. Cole gets the nod as the unopposed GOP candidate.
For Secretary of State, Republicans should chose Mac Warner, the retired military man. Democrats have a reasonable alternative to the incumbent in Patsy Trecost. Incumbent Natalie Tennant has been lax in enforcing election laws, and even gets caught in some apparent violations herself. Her time has come and gone.
The sole Republican for State Auditor is JB McCuskey, who deserves the support of voters. Mary Ann Claytor is the choice on the Democrat side. She is actually experienced in the Auditor’s office, something that will be novel during the recent past.
State Treasurer John Perdue is a Boone County native and solid performer as the lone Democrat candidate. His opponent on the Republican side should be Ann Urling, a Charleston banker. There’s no contest in either primary for Commissioner of Agriculture. Democrat incumbent Walt Helmick will face Republican Kent Leonhardt in November. Attorney General also offers no contests. It will be incumbent Republican Patrick Morrisey against Democrat legislator Doug Reynolds.
The balance of philosophical power may well hang in the balance in the Supreme Court of Appeals non-partisan race. We favor former Attorney General Darrell McGraw, who will bring a wealth of experience to the bench. His opponents have run negative campaigns, with one, Beth Walker, even claiming she can somehow make drug laws tougher from the bench. That kind of judicial activism from someone who calls herself a conservative is the death knell for her candidacy.
For the State Senate in District Six, we endorse Democrat Brandon T. Barker of Williamson. We cannot endorse Republican Chandler Swope, who is the lone GOP contestant.
Democrat State Senator Art Kirkendoll in District Seven is the hardest-working legislator at the capitol, bar-none. While others talk, Kirkendoll delivers and always has. As a Logan County Commissioner, he effectively brought public water supplies to the entire county and there are few projects in Southern West Virginian that do not have Kirkendoll’s fingerprints on them. He deserves support. We make no endorsement on the GOP side.
In House District 21, incumbent Democrat Phyllis Riffe White is carrying on the public service tradition of her husband, Harry Keith. She is an experienced and honored educator rooted in the hills of Mingo County. She deserves your support. We cannot support either Republican candidate.
Democrat incumbent Jeff Eldridge is a hard-working, people person and deserves renomination in House District 22. He should be joined on the D line by Gary McCallister, former Lincoln County board member. Among Republicans, we favor Zack Maynard and cannot endorse either of the other two. Incumbent GOPer Michel Moffatt is an arrogant, right-wing Republican who has no compassion for those in his district. A single-shot vote of Maynard is best for Republicans.
In District 23, one qualified candidate is on the ballot, former Boone Sheriff Rodney Miller, a Democrat. We urge a primary and general vote for him.
District 24 Democrat incumbent Ralph Rodighiero is a hard-working, people person. He deserves renomination. His Democrat partner, the surest Republican vote in the legislature, Rupie Phillips matches Moffatt’s arrogance and lack of concern for the common man. We can only endorse Rodighiero. The two Republican candidates are unknown to us.
For Circuit Judge in Circuit Seven, Division One, we endorse Joshua Butcher. Having listened to radio advertisements for his opponent, Douglas Witten, we are appalled at the judge’s lack of judicial decorum. Poking fun at Butcher’s religion (and even bringing religion into the debate to begin with) is beneath the dignity of a judge. Witten should be ashamed of himself and likely deserves admonition from the state Supreme Court. Judge Eric H. O’Briant is unopposed in Division Two and deserves re-election.
In Boone County, the logical and only choice is incumbent Will Thompson, who is recognized statewide as one of the best judges around. The other judge in that circuit, Lincoln County’s Jay Hoke deserves re-election as well.
In Mingo’s Thirtieth Circuit, Teresa McCune would be a solid choice. We have endorsed Williamson Mayor Robert Carlton, based on his lengthy public service experience, however. The one candidate to avoid is incumbent Miki Thompson, who rules much like disgraced Judge Michael Thornsbury but with more subtlety.
For Family Court Judge, Eighth Circuit, we endorse incumbent Sabrina Deskins. Her opponent, Tonya Mounts Hatfield, has run an effective, tireless campaign but Deskins has the reputation and experience to earn your support.
For the Tenth Circuit of Family Court, we endorse Bobby Hale. His opponent, incumbent Cynthia Jarrell, is past the need for retirement. Rn Salmons, the lone candidate in the circuit’s other division, deserves support to replace retiring Judge Scott Elswick.
Most of Kanawha’s Family Court Judges are unopposed, as are all the circuit judges. In contested races where we endorse, we favor incumbent Rob Montgomery in Division One and challenger Jim Douglas in Division Five.
We have already made endorsements in the various county races and will reiterate them before election day. Above all, the Corridor Chronicle urges all readers to get out and vote, either by early ballot or on May 10. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. that day.