Gregory’s Web for April 19, 2020
We have discussed the ins and outs, and ups and downs of the coronavirus for weeks now. It might be time to completely forget about it and move on to more interesting subjects, but it seems all-encompassing.
There ARE other things going on in the world. It just doesn’t appear that way.
Even those of us concerned with government overreach realize that every death is tragic.
One thought that comes to mind when faced with the onslaught of big government is to think it’s not a real curiosity that Governor Jim Justice has decreed how West Virginians should behave, even in their homes.
We might have seen it coming.
If a Governor runs for an office, gets elected and serves while defying a basic constitutional requirement to hold that office, it’s not a stretch to watch other laws ignored.
This column and others told voters in 2016 that Justice had no intention of living in the Governor’s Mansion as required by the state constitution.
Justice said many times that he’d continue to call Lewisburg home. Others have done that, but unlike past governors, he and his family have made no pretense of living in Charleston. Despite the constitutional requirement, apparently nothing can be done about it.
Democrat Attorney General candidate Isaac Sponaugle filed suit to force Justice to stay in Charleston. It’s basically gone nowhere despite the clear language of the requirement.
So Justice gets away with ignoring a key duty of the law. Why should he think any others matter?
United States and West Virginia law make it clear people are to have SOME freedom. Those freedoms are not given up when a pandemic hits.
It should be okay for churches to assemble regardless of what the Governor says. A revered part of national law is the right of the people to assemble. And there’s nothing in law that says “unless there’s a pandemic.”
Election day is set in state code. The method of acquiring an absentee ballot is clearly defined. Yet, Justice simply changed the date of the election and the rules for absentee ballots. Nobody has protested; no legal action has been filed questioning his authority to do any of those things.
To be honest, Justice is about one step away from operating a total dictatorship. He hasn’t even bothered to bring legislative leaders into his daily dog-and-pony coronavirus updates.
Lives are at stake. We all know that. And every life is precious. Yet the constitution does not say to follow the law EXCEPT when there’s a pandemic.
It’s amazing how easily West Virginians have given up their rights. Almost no whimpers to limiting travel, group meetings or private enterprise. One really gets the feeling that if Justice said jumping off a rock cliff would save you from the coronavirus, the line at Spruce Knob would reach to North Carolina.
It’s too bad those who want big government to take care of them from birth to the grave are getting their way with little more than a whimper from libertarians.
It’s incredible that churches have willingly submitted to orders. Their right to assemble has never before been questioned, except in communist countries.
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Incidentally, I and most others always predicted that the effort to force Justice to stay at the mansion would be unsuccessful.
One item that regularly comes up in election contests is residency. As the court in the Justice case has found, it’s much more difficult to define “residency” than one might think.
Claims of not satisfying residency requirements are often made, but seldom successfully. We’ll discuss one ongoing in the state’s 59th Delegate District in a minute.
The main issue is what constitutes “residency.” Does one have to sleep somewhere to be a “resident”? Exactly how many days, hours or minutes does one have to be somewhere to be a “resident”?
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One has to give credit to New York Governor Anthony Cuomo for trying to make the most of a tragic situation. Cuomo’s daily virus briefings finally led him to explain the omnipotence of himself and other public officials. It is them — specifically “not God” — who have gotten the virus under control.
Capitol pundits often wonder why fundamental Christians are so loyal to President Trump. For one thing, they don’t need to worry that the President will dismiss the deity as easily as Cuomo — a Catholic — did.
One thing this tells us is that the lines in the presidential race this fall will be clearly drawn. I still don’t see how the President can lose.
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In rallying against the methods being used to promote absentee balloting in the primary election, many are confused that I and others have singled out those conducting it for undue criticism.
I’ve written that in no way do I think Justice, Secretary of State Mac Warner or Attorney General Patrick Morrisey would ever be involved in an intentional effort to alter an election result. Neither would the state’s 55 county clerks. And the local postal carrier, who some oddly assumed I was attacking, certainly is not involved in any election stealing plot.
Still, the officials should, in my opinion, quit pushing absentee voting as the answer to all election plans this year. It isn’t and the fact that absentee balloting just begs for dishonesty cannot be lost just because we trust our public officials.
Human error explains many discrepancies in any election. I have had dozens of reports of ballot applications going to deceased voters and folks who moved out of state years ago. There’s even one story that applications intended for one precinct went to another county due to incorrect addressing.
Beyond that, though, marginally dishonest people can search data bases, find long lists of ineligible voters still on the rolls and submit applications in those names. If they can get their hands on the application, it only makes common sense that they could intercept the actual ballot as well.
Also, there are plenty of well-intentioned party workers willing to “help” voters fill out ballots. The invitation to problems is just inherent in the system.
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I had a lengthy chat with Secretary of State Mac Warner about the whole process last week.
Warner, whose family are personal friends of mine, explained that officials were constrained with how to accommodate the most voters while abiding by the law.
He assured me that duplicate ballots would immediately be caught in his system of checks and balances.
I trust Warner. I don’t trust some who will get their hands on ballots. We’ll see how it goes but I intend to vote in person.
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Now, about the 59th Delegate District in the Eastern Panhandle. It is once again the scene of Republican controversy involving residency.
This time, it’s Morgan County Commissioner Ken Reed who is challenging GOP Delegate Larry Kump and Reed’s residence is in doubt.
Not without controversy at various levels, Kump has again raised the possibility of his opponent not residing in the district. This time, as noted, it’s pharmacist Ken Reed. Two years ago, it was his wife, Tally, whose residency was in dispute.
Districts are compact in the population growing Panhandle and questions often arise concerning residency up there in bedroom communities of Washington, DC.
In 2018, efforts to get Tally Reed off the ballot were unsuccessful. The election made further court action unnecessary when Reed lost to Kump by 987-953.
Kump supporters insist Tally Reed does not live in the district now although, like her husband two years ago, she listed a residence within the district when she filed.
The Reeds own five pharmacies in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. They also own the Canary Grill in Berkeley Springs.
But a lawsuit filed in Kanawha County by attorney Patrick Lane contends the commissioner actually “lives” in the wrong district. Coincidentally, Lane is a former Republican state delegate himself.
The Charleston lawyer represents Morgan County resident Howard Stone in the suit, which names Reed and Warner as defendants.
In filing the case, Lane said he felt hearings could be held telephonically due to the coronavirus threat.
There is no Democrat candidate in the solidly Republican district.
Reed claims residency in the 59th District at a house in the eastern part of Morgan County at a Hedgesville address.
Stone maintains that “Reed is a resident of the 58th District rather than the 59th District from which he seeks nomination and possible election.” Interestingly, the suit was served at Reed’s alleged “home” in the 58th.
The case is assigned to Circuit Judge Tera Salango, wife of Kanawha County Commissioner and Democrat gubernatorial candidate Ben Salango. She has ordered Warner and Reed to appear at a show cause hearing this week to show why Reed should not be removed from the ballot.
The current uproar comes after Kump and other Eastern Panhandle delegates tried to pass a bill in the last legislative session to tighten the district residency requirements. That bill appeared on its way to passage until it was pulled from the agenda at the last minute by GOP legislative leadership.
Current law requires that a candidate reside in his or her district for at least one year preceding their election.
The disputed house in the 59th District is the same house that Reed’s wife claimed to live in when she ran in 2018.
If either of the Reeds used the address where his opponents believes they live, they would have had to challenge Republican incumbent Delegate Daryl Cowles in the 58th.
Kump and his supporters say the Reeds and Cowles are friends. Kump says Ken Reed endorsed his Democrat opponent, John Isner, in the 2018 general election. The Republican won that election handily in the overwhelmingly GOP district.
Five days before the 2018 primary, Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit said she would not even consider arguments made by the residents because the petition was filed after early voting had started.
“Why not resolve it after the election?” Judge Tabit asked attorney Lane, who also brought that lawsuit on behalf of the residents. “If there is an issue with respect to residency, it can be resolved then.”
In an appearance on Eastern Panhandle Talk with Rob Mario and David Welch, Kump said he doesn’t know where Reed lives.
Welch brought the current Republican governor race into the equation, saying, “there is no love lost at all between Daryl Cowles and your close friend Mike Folk.”
“One is led to believe now, without stretching the imagination, that there are some real personality conflicts going on here for some reason,” Welch said.
That’s hard to believe in the state Republican party.
Folk, the former state legislator, is my choice for the Republican Governor nomination.
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Little of Kump’s service in the legislature has been smooth sailing. After getting elected to succeed fellow Republican Craig Blair in 2010, he was challenged in the 2014 Republican primary by 17-year-old Saira Blair, who defeated him soundly. She is Craig Blair’s daughter. For a time, the father-daughter team served together since Craig Blair moved up to the State Senate in 2010.
Subsequently, Kump ran when Craig Blair sought Senate reelection and was defeated.
It was when Saira Blair decided not to run for reelection that Kump was able to return to the seat by defeating Tally Reed and Isner.
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Don’t you figure those Republican gatherings are sweet affairs in the Panhandle, given the public record regarding the love these candidates feel for each other?
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I said it earlier but Huntington Republican Mayor candidate Scott Caserta said it better in an opinion piece last week.
I pointed out several weeks ago that negative attacks on each other by the GOP contestants does little but help assure the reelection of Democrat Mayor Steve Williams.
Obviously, Caserta agrees. That doesn’t necessarily mean, of course, that the name calling will stop.
About all I got for my previous comments advocating civility were references to me “attacking” the lady who appeared in a video complaining about Caserta. That I didn’t come close to attacking her was lost in the social media political rhetoric.
“It’s been said, all politics is local,” Caserta wrote. “What a shame the mayoral race in Huntington is being tainted by attack and innuendo within the Republican Party.”
It’s an old adage but still true, “it builds nobody up to tear somebody down.”
Caserta rightly adds that ads in this race have been designed to spark votes “against” a candidate; not “for” another one.
Some folks thrive on negative politics. I’ve never liked it honestly. The truth is always adequate in a campaign. If the truth SEEMS negative, that’s okay. But constantly picking at every little thing the opponent has ever done is not productive.
Beating Williams would be a tough order without GOP infighting. Defeating him with it is impossible.
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Caserta notes that some have even questioned the “Christianity” of the mayoral candidates. That is improper, he says.
These attacks in the GOP primary just serve to cost Republicans potential votes in the general election.
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On the other hand, most may not question the religious leanings of Republican Delegate John Mandt Jr. of Huntington. But they might question his judgment.
Mandt, who got in a world of controversy for making remarks that appeared anti-Muslim, proudly displays on his billboards that he represents “Christian Family Values.”
As the preacher told the confessor at prayer meeting, “I don’t believe I’d have told that part, brother.”
All it does is inspire those with opposing views to fight Mandt’s reelection harder. If there’s a potential voter alive who doesn’t know he’s a professed Christian, he or she is likely incapable of successfully casting a ballot.
But he sure makes a great hot dog.
Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185 or email@example.com. Hear his political commentary each Monday at 7 a.m. on the Tom Roten Morning Show on NewsRadio 800, WVHU, Huntington.