Gregory’s Web for May 24, 2020
by Ron Gregory
It never hurts to be confident. This may be especially true in politics where exuding that characteristic serves to reassure others.
If a candidate and his staff seem sure he or she is going to win, it rubs off on supporters. They become certain of their candidate’s victory, which creates that key ingredient, enthusiasm.
One thing not lacking from one candidate is confidence. In fact this U.S. Senate contender is so sure he’s a Primary winner that he’s “not even thinking about it.” It’s money in the bank, he says.
Who, you may ask, is this self-assured office seeker? None other than our fearless leader, former Logan State Senator Richie Ojeda.
Never lacking in pride, Ojeda recently bragged to a Kentucky newspaper about having the Democrat nomination for U.S. Senate wrapped up in West Virginia. He may have forgotten that Paula Jean Swearengin is even running. Or that she got a third of the votes running against Senator Joe Manchin two years ago.
Ojeda never has been one to worry about small details. West Virginians still do not have access to medical marijuana because he was too busy raising campaign funds in Washington to bother with enabling legislation as a state senator.
The (Ashland) Daily Independent’s recent article featured the perceived similarities between Ojeda and Kentucky Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Mike Broihier.
At the start of the story, the paper notes that the pair must win primaries in order to face “powerful” Republican incumbents.
“But Richard Ojeda isn’t concerned about that for himself,” the story explains. He’s a lock for the Democrat nomination to face iconic Senator Shelley Moore Capito, he declares. He thinks his counterpart in the Bluegrass state, Broihier, will get to meet GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as well.
“At the end of the day, you’re going after McConnell,” Ojeda told Broihier during a Zoom call with the reporter. “I don’t give two s***s about the primary. That don’t mean nothing to me. I’m challenging Shelley Moore Capito.”
Perhaps Governor Jim Justice should not just have postponed the Democrat primary; it’s just a waste to have it apparently. It’s also good to know Ojeda has lost none of his skills as a great orator or his potty mouth.
Both Ojeda and Broihier are proponents of Universal Basic Income. In other words, “free” money for all forever.
The Kentuckian said common, middle-class people will spend their money locally and UBI could “make this economy roar” as a result. “People want health care and a future for their children.” He said the “Dow Jones means nothing to most people.”
Ojeda told the paper, “For the first time in forever, we could absolutely grow our economy.”
The paper described Ojeda. “The fiery Army veteran who earned two Bronze Star medals during a 24-year military stint is writing a book about ‘fighting for the forgotten,’ he said. He is an avid supporter of unions, teachers and the military, among other groups.”
The story concludes, “If Broihier and Ojeda can both eventually represent their states in the U.S. Senate, Broihier deemed a quote from ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ fitting.
“Hell’s coming to breakfast,” he said.
It may astound Ojeda to hear that most pundits think Swearengin will win the primary. If she does, it will be interesting to see if Ojeda ignores the results and just goes on running against Capito anyway.
After all, he doesn’t “give two s—s.”
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Maybe it’s a case of it being better late than never. Many statehouse observers wonder why a group of state legislators waited until Justice’s coronavirus “orders” were expiring before challenging them in court last week. Their lawyer suggested it might have been because Justice threatened to issue orders for everyone in parts of the state to wear masks.
Hats off to independent Delegate S. Marshall Wilson and Republican colleagues Delegates Tom Bibby, Tony Paynter and Jim Butler along with Senator Mike Azinger for having the courage to seek a writ of mandamus against Justice. Asking why the Governor has ignored the legislature in governing by decree is appropriate.
Attorney John Bryan of Monroe County filed the petition on behalf of the lawmakers. Regular readers will remember Bryan as the attorney who successfully represented David Woolsey in Ojeda’s famous “blind curve passing” episode when the ex-Senator was running for Congress two years ago.
The five legislators are challenging Justice’s right to rule by executive order during an emergency such as the coronavirus pandemic.
“The core argument is separation of powers,” Bryan told reporters. He said the Governor is creating and enacting his own laws — under which process we don’t know, because the people haven’t been involved — and then he’s carrying out and executing his own laws. The West Virginia Constitution says you can’t do that.”
Wilson, the Berkeley County Republican turned Independent, is the lead petitioner. He told reporters Justice had been ruling by executive order since March 26. Consultation with the legislature is past due, he said.
“I’m not saying that he shouldn’t have taken immediate action once he determined that there was a need for a state of [emergency]. It’s the executive’s job. But once he took those actions, he should have called us in and let us do our job,” The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Marshall said. “We should be here speaking for the people and appropriating money — their money — that’s not the governor’s job. He has basically cut the people out of the decision-making process.”
The suit points out that 38 states have convened their legislatures since the pandemic began, including West Virginia’s five neighboring commonwealths.
Since the implementation of an emergency status, Justice has held weekday briefings to provide updates. Despite consistently having members of his administration present and speaking at those briefings, legislators have been noticeably absent.
After issuing stay-at-home orders during the peak of the viral outbreak, the Governor has been slowly easing restrictions. He has taken all of his actions by executive orders.
“Justice is doing things now … that are beyond just executive orders. He’s actually making law,” Bibby told the paper.
Attorney Bryan said legislators became especially concerned when Justice said Thursday that he might require Berkeley and Jefferson county citizens to wear masks. Bibby called that making law without legislative approval.
Bryan had said the writ motion would be filed at 11 a.m., Friday but it was not entered until that afternoon.
Let’s see if the newly-efficient state Supreme Court can now whip into action and rule on the matter before it becomes moot.
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One question lingering for Justice is what did he know and when did he know it. If he actually knew of the coming pandemic when he told a press briefing he did, he would not have had to call a special session to inform the legislature. They were in regular session until March 7, which appears later than the date Justice says his administration knew trouble was on the way. In fact, his initial executive order came just two weeks later.
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Thumbs up to Republican Secretary of State Mac Warner, his staff and others for apparently disrupting a fraudulent absentee voting scheme before it affected the 2020 election.
Those of us who have seen such attempts in the past are both relieved the alleged culprits were caught and reassured that our concerns about mail-in voting are valid.
According to Warner, allegations of the scheme were referred to and investigated by the WV Election Fraud Task Force – a multi-agency law enforcement effort. Last month, Warner and U.S. Attorneys Bill Powell and Mike Stuart announced the formation of the Task Force in an effort to deter voter and election fraud associated with the upcoming primary. Apparently it worked well.
To expand voting options to people concerned with their health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, counties mailed information on absentee voting to every registered voter in the state. All received absentee ballot applications rather than having to request them as the rules have previously required.
Warner said that an increase in absentee ballots comes with a natural increase in opportunities for fraud. That is an obviously correct statement denied by Democrats who were advocating for mail-in voting long before the pandemic.
Warner said his office is required to maintain confidentiality on the specifics of election law violations. But he wanted us to know this one scheme has been investigated and referred to the U.S. Attorneys. Good for him.
Warner concluded by saying, “The Election Fraud Task Force is primed and ready to respond to any allegation of impropriety surrounding the election. If citizens see something that doesn’t seem right, please call our tip line at 1-877-FRAUD-WV.”
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Republican Second District Congressman Alex Mooney is unconventional when it comes to state politics. Recently, he did what’s often considered a no-no by endorsing candidates in the primary.
Among them, Mooney took the side of incumbent Delegate Larry Kump in his heated battle with the state’s best-known vagabond, Ken Reed.
Readers will recall Reed as the apparently homeless co-owner with his wife of a chain of Eastern Panhandle and neighboring states drug stores. He and his wife keep changing “home” addresses to make them eligible for offices they desire. In this case, it’s Kump’s 59th District. By choosing Kump, Mooney is clearly choosing sides in a long-running party feud.
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Middle-of-the-road sanity could prevail. Labor sources tell me a recent poll of historic Republican voters in the Fourth Senatorial District shows common sense challenger Amy Nichole Grady slightly ahead against both Senate President Mitch Carmichael and Delegate Jim Butler. The latter pair regularly debate over who is most conservative.
With nearly a quarter of the respondents still undecided, the race is obviously up in the air, the poll found. Since Butler and Carmichael are better known, one would think having a large undecided vote this late in the cycle bodes well for Grady.
When I asked why unions were so interested in the GOP primary, the source said because they believe the lone Democrat, Bruce Ashworth, has an excellent shot at unseating Carmichael if he’s nominated. “Ashworth versus Mitch presents a clear progressive-regressive choice,” the source said. “We don’t think the district is that conservative.”
The difference would be even more apparent if ultra conservative Butler won the GOP race.
Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear his political commentary at 7 a.m., TUESDAY (due to the Memorial Day holiday) on the Tom Roten Morning Show on NewsRadio 800, WVHU-AM, Huntington.