by Ron Gregory
Credit one West Virginia State Senator with being a near-hero in the vote to confirm former Mingo Prosecutor Teresa Maynard as chief of administrative law judges. Color at least three others as the ultimate villains.
Democrat State Senator Bob Plymale sat in his seat during the confirmations committee questioning of Maynard. He calmly looked at her and delivered the key message from Senate Democrats. “I don’t know you personally,” Plymale said. “But I’m inclined to vote against you.” He then explained that, for several sessions, he and some other legislators have questioned the whole administrative law judge process as it is currently constituted. He said he will support legislation in January to “eliminate your proposed position.”
Against the background of a Sunday Republican Senate caucus that led to unanimity that Maynard should not be confirmed, Plymale’s comment is significant. Because Senate President Bill Cole, who has presided over the most worthless legislative sessions in history (and that’s saying something), didn’t want to be viewed as an “obstructionist,” the GOP offered willingness to vote against Maynard “if a Democrat will join us.”
Yes, yes … caucuses are closed, secret affairs. There hasn’t been one held in history that was not immediately the subject of complete revelation and story-telling.
So, what Plymale did, in essence, was signal the GOP that they had at least that “one Democrat” who would join them in making scuttling her appointment seem non-partisan. Hand it to the Republicans: they didn’t bite on that one.
When the deep interrogation of Maynard ended (“what law school did you attend?” one assertive Senator asked matter-of-factly), Chair Donna Boley, the Pleasants County Republican, asked Plymale if he wanted to make the motion to remove Maynard from the recommendation list. He declined, possibly for two reasons.
First, it is customary for a committee’s vice-chair (in this case, Jeff Mullins) to make motions; and second, Plymale was willing to vote “no” but he wasn’t going to carry the Republicans’ water for them.
So, Boley turned to Greg Boso, appropriately named after the famous red-haired clown, and HE made the motion to approve everyone.
Thus, you have near-hero, Plymale; and villain, Boso.
While we could talk about all 30 who voted who ultimately voted to confirm Maynard on the Senate floor, I primarily blame Cole and Kent Leonhardt for the debacle.
Cole, as President, started that day with 18 votes among the 34 senators (five of the nine confirmations committee members are Republicans). The Democrats have 16. That’s how Cole became President, 18-16, after the perpetually confused Daniel Hall switched from Republican to Democrat back to Republican.
Three Republicans were listed as absent for the confirmation vote on the floor: Mullins, Dr. Tom Takubo and Charles Trump. That put the GOP down to 15. But Roman Prezioso, a Democrat, was likewise absent. That made the body sitting before Cole dead even at 15-15. Plymale, on the other hand, had promised at least one Democrat “no” vote. But Cole could not gather the courage to either insist that his members keep their commitment or actually vote AGAINST confirmation personally.
Part of Cole’s current Senate district includes Mingo County. If he somehow thinks smacking the voters of Mingo, who rejected Maynard by two-to-one in May, was a smart move, he is much too stupid to be Governor. If he doesn’t care that an 18-year-old had his head stomped in on Second Avenue in May 2015, he lacks the compassion to be Governor. If he thinks cozying up to the former political faction that opposed him for Senator and rejecting the side that helped him win is th way to be elected Governor, well … go back to part a. Stupidity runs deep.
Cole will face the voters on November 8 as well. Let us watch the Mingo results to see if even his inane promises to Gilbert’s town officials, Mayor Vivian and her husband Dandy-Randy Livingood, save the day. I don’t think so.
So, that’s one near-hero and two major villains. The other is a man offering himself as a statewide candidate after ignoring principle on this confirmations vote. Kent Leonhardt wants to be state Agriculture Commissioner. He wants to displace Walt Helmick. Here’s what I think: Helmick has a heart; Leonhardt does not.
If I was offering myself as a statewide candidate, I would consider the actions of an appointee who basically scuttled and then covered up the chance of prosecuting two men who beat a child. Kent Leonhardt proudly punched the green button and confirmed Teresa Maynard. He is not worthy of holding any public office, much less Agriculture Commissioner. In light of his Maynard vote, one wonders if Leonhardt would have any interest in protecting the lives of West Virginians who might be exposed to some agricultural hazard.
Would Leonhardt just throw up one hand, press the green button with the other, and say, “oh well, a few people died of food poisoning. So what?” That is not far-fetched in light of his vote last Tuesday.
I will not promote Helmick as the greatest American who ever lived. But I have seen his compassion and kindness. Leonhardt has shown none.
So, there are the major villains in my book. Many who voted “yes” are my friends. Many who voted “yes” are good, compassionate people ordinarily. I absolutely am giving a pass to some of them, although I should not. But some votes are understandable in light of President Cole’s behavior.
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All of those interested in justice, not just for Dawson Isom but for all West Virginians, remember these names November 8. Support Jim Justice for Governor; and Walt Helmick for Agriculture Commissioner. Tell Cole, Leonhardt and the Governor that a bit of human compassion would be nice. Tell all three it’s time to move on to other work.
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My kind of place has opened in Logan.
It’s the new headquarters promoting such candidacies as Donald Trump, Jim Justice and Zack Maynard for House of Delegates.
More on that early next week.
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Your comments, story ideas, gossip and instances of Bill Cole’s heart-felt compassion are always appreciated. Use the email address listed or call my cell, 304-533-5185.