by Ron Gregory
The end may finally be in sight for un-elected Logan County Circuit Judge Douglas Whitten.
Although Witten has acted about as childish as it is possible for an alleged adult to behave, he is still clinging to the silly notion that there is no way the voters of Logan County sent him a clear message back in May. Even though Joshua Butcher defeated Witten by more than 50 votes after canvassing, the judge who should be an example of decorum, has pouted, stomped his feet and behaved like a sniveling two-year-old.
Witten, appointed to his position after the duly-elected Roger Perry resigned, has shown little courtroom manners and less on the political field of battle during his brief tenure.
One of Witten’s first official acts was to unceremoniously fire Butcher, who worked for Perry. It was pretty much downhill from there.
The appointed judge whined when the vote returns showed that Butcher had beaten, pouted all the way through a canvass and then filed one of the wildest lawsuits ever seen in a state famous for its insane suits – and I’m not talking about the one Jim Justice wore when he walked out of the capitol months ago.
Witten initially claimed that he lost to Butcher because Richard Ojeda, who was running against incumbent Art Kirkendoll for the State Senate, had been physically beaten during the weekend prior to the election. Witten claimed that Ojeda’s horrible beating soured voters on anyone identified with Kirkendoll, who Witten claimed was a king maker in Logan politics.
Although nobody with a brain, except for Ojeda (hold it … I’m not sure he HAS one, so let’s adjust that to say NOBODY with a brain) would think Kirkendoll had anything to do with the attack, Witten apparently bought into such a theory.
So, Witten wrote with an apparent straight face that he lost because he was Kirkendoll’s candidate and Butcher was identified with Ojeda. Beats me, folks.
Anyway, Witten filed a motion under an obscure, ancient portion of law, asking that a three-person tribunal be appointed to look into the case and rule him the real winner. By the time the tribunal met, a couple of weeks ago, Witten had apparently dropped most of that asinine argument. Still, his side called numerous witnesses when the hearing was held. None testified to any acts of fraud, which normally would be the only thing to override the will of the voters.
Video taken at one precinct, where Witten maintains Butcher’s wife violated the prohibition of campaigning within 300 feet of the polling place, showed that nothing like that happened. Other mediocre allegations claimed by the un-elected judge were proven wrong as well.
The three-judge panel had told attorneys in the case it would take a couple of weeks to have transcripts prepared. Then each side will submit proposed orders as they would like them to be. The estimate is that by the end of September, Judge Butcher may finally be able to enjoy his victory.
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Among developments statewide, former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich is coming to the Eastern Panhandle to raise funds for GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole. Cole, who recently won the endorsement of his wife Brownie, is said to be lagging in polls centering on statewide offices.
Rumors in the Eastern Panhandle held last week that Democrat Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick is suffering health problems. He appeared quite healthy the last time I saw him on the campaign trail but I expect we’ll all know how all politicians are doing when the annual labor picnic is held at Racine on Labor Day. That’s a “be there or else” event that draws politicos from every corner of the state.
Meanwhile, Second District Congressman Alex X. Mooney has two upcoming fundraisers. Both will be in September, with one in Charleston and the other in Martinsburg. The latter will be held at the Gary Kelley residence with Lynn Staton among the sponsors.
Staton is the widow of the late Congressman Mick Staton, who served one term in Congress after defeating ex-Charleston Mayor John Hutchinson in the 1980 election. Hutchinson initially replaced long-term then-Third District Congressman John Slack. Hutchinson served just six months, finishing Slack’s term because the ex-Mayor lost to the Republican Staton. Bob Wise, who went on to become Governor, defeated Staton in 1982. That meant four men had represented the same Congressional district within a three-year period.
Mooney, formerly a Maryland legislator, is being challenged this time by former Delegate Mark Hunt of Charleston.
Fundraising is said to be difficult in 2016, with most campaigns saying donations are down. Some blame that on economic conditions while others think a general dissatisfaction with politicians is fueling the downturn.
Clearly, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has proven that 2016 is the year of the true outsider.
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Speaking of Trump, pundits can predict all the record defeats they want, but the New York businessman has proven time and again that he gains votes exceeding poll expectations. The fact that, as of this writing, Trump is leading Democrat Hillary Clinton in such major polls as Rasmussen means there is no way Cinton has the election won.
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Meanwhile, in statewide races, most political observers expect Democrat Natalie Tennant to hang onto her job as Secretary of State, despite ethics problems and other concerns. Libertarian John Buckley could siphon votes from Republican challenger Mac Warner. I would not count Warner out of this one yet.
A Libertarian is also in the State Auditor contest. Brenton Ricketts will probably take votes from Republican JB McCuskey in this field. The Democrat candidate is hard-working Mary Ann Claytor. All three are vying to replace the departed Glen Gainer, who resigned a few months ago.
For State Treasurer, incumbent Democrat John Perdue is clearly the favorite over GOP challenger Ann Urling. This race also has a Libertarian, Michael Young. In the Agriculture Commissioner race, Helmick’s Republican challenger in a rematch is Kent Leonhardt. The Republican is working hard on the campaign trail and many think he is the favorite to defeat Helmick. I believe the result will be very close, as it was in 2012, but at this point I think Helmick will hold his job. The Libertarian in this one is Buddy Guthrie.
There are four candidates for the position currently held by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican. The Democrat opponent is legislator Doug Reynolds. The Libertarians nominated Karl Kolenich while the Mountain Party is fielding Michael Sharley. Most observers think Morrisey would win if the election was held today.
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I continue to believe Democrats will pick up the two required seats to resume control of the State Senate. I will specifically discuss each district soon. If the Dems do take the upper chamber back, I certainly hope they will return Clerk Joe Minard to his former position. Minard is one of the most affable, qualified public servants in the business. And he serves a wonderful plate of spaghetti and salad at his historic Clarksburg restaurant.
Much of the spending attributed to Cole, as Senate President, in negative ads by Justice were actually instituted by current Clerk Clark Barnes. Minard spent virtually nothing on furniture, etc. when he came into the position, but Justice says Cole and Barnes spent around a half-million taxpayer dollars.
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Word from the capitol a few weeks ago was that Republican House Speaker Tim Armstead is no longer employed at the law firm where he had been working.
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Republican House of Delegates candidate Riley Moore, poised to be the next Congressman Moore, has also been working very hard in his House district. The District 67 candidate is taking on Democrat Rod Snyder. Sitting in the stands at the Jefferson County Fair livestock auction last week, Moore looked all the world like his grandfather, the late Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr. When Arch Moore was 30, he and Riley of today bear an unbelievable resemblance.
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Your comments, story ideas, gossip and news releases of spouses supporting their spouses for public office are always welcome. Use my listed email or call my cell, 304-533-5185.