Gregory’s Web for June 28, 2020
by Ron Gregory
The Salango for Governor forces seem to have begun the fall campaign already. You can never start too soon, I agree.
Their first line of attack appears to be the astonishing fact that incumbent Republican Governor Jim Justice doesn’t pay his bills. I don’t know who convinced them that’s the winning issue strategy but it is — for Justice.
The Governor’s history of non-payment of bills was discussed forward, backward, sideways and all other ways in 2016. It didn’t matter. He was nominated and elected as a Democrat.
Now he’s a Republican. Opponents beat him up in the 2020 primary for — you guessed it — not paying his bills. He got 63% of the vote. One GOP opponent, former Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, spent at least $3.5 million. A lot of that went toward talking about Justice’s lack of bill paying. Thrasher got 10% of the vote for his trouble and money.
Now Salango and his troops apparently see a newly-enlightened public as being appalled at the slacker Justice. What a waste of time and resources.
As Salango should keenly be aware, as a Kanawha County commissioner, there are serious matters facing the next governor. Whether he pays his own electric bill or the Greenbrier’s is not one of them.
Another hint: a shortage of soccer fields is NOT the pressing matter on the minds of West Virginians. I can’t count the voters who said to me, during the primary, “why does he think I’d care how many soccer fields he built in Kanawha County?” Some economically depressed counties are fortunate to have a soccer ball let alone a million dollar soccer complex.
That issue may feel good to the Charleston South Hills elite he plays to but it does not grab votes in job-starved Madison or Welch. They’d like a taste of actual economic development there and elsewhere in the state.
If attacking Justice’s bill paying and ballyhooing soccer fields is the best he can do, Salango is in for a long summer of watching Justice efficiently and effectively handle the pandemic — and his re-election campaign. The governor’s stock has risen immensely as a result of his calm but firm daily updates.
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Wise heads prevailed when the Kanawha County Commission certified the election of Ward Harshbarger and Mike Ferrell as magistrates last week.
As I noted last time, I voted for Harshbarger and Ferrell’s incumbent opponent Jess Bailes so I lacked any personal gratification by going 1-1.
But commissioners had held up their certification of those races because Harshbarger and Ferrell failed to file financial reports in a timely manner.
I suggested last week that even considering withholding certification because of tardy financial reports was wrong. Until recent years, the clear will of the voters has always overridden technicalities of the law.
Commission President Kent Carper said legal research discovered a 1926 Supreme Court decision that plainly ruled certification could not be withheld due to delinquent financials. So he and fellow Commissioners Ben Salango and Hoppy Shores joined in certifying. They did permit attorneys for the two losers to present briefs in support of their clients’ positions.
Shores, who is retiring this year after decades of service, told me certification “was the right thing to do. We all agreed.”
The commission deserves a pat on the back for this decision as well as handling a difficult election process in a fair and swift fashion. County Clerk Vera McCormick and her staff did a fine job, as usual.
By the way, both Ferrell and Harshbarger did eventually submit the required paperwork; it was just late.
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Let’s catch up with my friend and yours, perennial candidate and former State Senator Richard Ojeda.
Having once more put in a campaign performance that would embarrass a normal person, Ojeda is now the national spokesman for a group called No Dem Left Behind.
Coming off his loss in the Democrat U.S. Senate primary weeks ago following his crushing loss to Republican Carol Miller for House of Representatives in 2018 and his aborted Presidential campaign, Ojeda now finds himself in the midst of protesters and arsonists for his regular podcast rants. He fits in well as spokesman for this radical group.
The hiring was announced well after he lost the Senate primary but the group said the move is designed to “amplify the voices of Democrats running for federal office in deeply red and rural districts.”
This is the same Ojeda who could not carry his home county or precinct against Miller. It’s obvious how someone like that can “amplify the voices” of others running for similar offices. Perhaps the motto will be, “look at what I did and do the opposite.”
Ojeda declared, “I am honored to have the opportunity to work with an organization dedicated to supporting candidates like me. I have worked tremendously hard fighting for my district, so I know how hard each of these candidates are working to advocate for their communities. The coalition is poised to build on the tremendous momentum that they created this past year, and I look forward to being part of their efforts to send these fine candidates to Washington.”
Perhaps the 24-year U.S. Army veteran can explain to candidates the wisdom of being elected a state senator, resigning to run a hopeless campaign for the House of Representatives, announcing a week after losing that race that he was running for U.S. President, then withdrawing from that race and finally running an even more hopeless U.S. Senate campaign.
I’d still love to hear the brainwork that went behind all those moves.
In announcing his hiring, the organization declared, “Major Ojeda served in the West Virginia Senate where he staunchly showed his support for teachers, labor unions and the legalization of marijuana. He even overcame a brutal attack and won his race. In office, he called for increased teacher wages and sponsored the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, which was signed into law in 2017. Ojeda has gone on to raise over $3 million dollars as a Democrat in rural West Virginia.”
Three million dollars, friends. NOW, you see why losing elections is not really a problem. Ojeda and this group rant about corporations trying to buy elections but brag about raising millions to help “buy” elections.
I realize the sources of the money are not the same but there’s no difference in principle. Millions is … well, millions.
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The resignation of State Health Commissioner Dr. Cathy Slemp at Governor Justice’s request at least gave Democrat gubernatorial candidate Salango a new angle from which to criticize the incumbent Republican.
At least for the moment Salango paused his campaign about Justice not paying his bills long enough to say Justice intends to make Slemp the “fall guy.”
Now in order to set up a “fall guy” there has to be a “fall” or a failure of some sort. From her brethren at Johns Hopkins to the average working man or woman, I don’t think there’s any “fall” to see in Slemp’s work on the pandemic.
Overall, most rated her performance highly. One could question some things, like keeping elderly patients in nursing homes instead of hospitals. We who believe in freedom and liberty questioned the wearing of masks and closing stores that she recommended.
But the bottom line is that in a state initially projected to have 500 coronavirus deaths, we now have less than 100. That’s a pretty powerful statistic to all but President Trump and/or Justice haters.
So what shortcomings can one guess Salango, as a Kanawha County commissioner, knows about that the rest of us don’t?
Perhaps the fall campaign, particularly if it involves debates, will educate us.
In the interim, if Salango indeed knows of some major failure, isn’t he obligated to let us know what it is as an elected official? What exactly is Slemp being “set up” to “fail” on?
Don’t make us wait til the Governor tells us what Slemp is falling for, commissioner.
I, for one, am anxious to know.
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I suppose the resignation of Slemp could be part of the rumored housecleaning Justice is supposed to do to get his reelection campaign ignited.
The story goes that the Governor and valued advisers (aka Bray Carey) are consulting to decide if any highly visible Democrats will harm his reelection chances. Justice was a Democrat when elected in 2016 but quickly switched to the GOP. Some pure blood Republicans still question his GOP credentials.
And Justice gives them reason to. Despite Republican pledges never to raise taxes, they and Justice increased about every fee they could find. Especially hard hit was motor vehicle costs. He has additionally failed to publicly consult the Republican-controlled legislature as he has governed by executive order during the pandemic.
A fine public servant, Charleston lawyer Nick Casey, was one of the first Democrat casualties when Justice became a Republican. Casey was an ex-State Democrat chair and “too identifiable as a Democrat” some Justice associates said. He was shown the door in his position as chief of staff. Other Democrats left as well.
But Finance Secretary Dave Hardy, a former highly-visible Democrat Kanawha Commissioner, is still on the job. Hardy is a former treasurer of Kanawha’s Democrat Executive Committee.
It will be interesting to see if anybody else joins Slemp, whose political party registration I haven’t checked — yet.
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Ya Gotta Love Liberals Department: Monongalia Democrat Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, a compassionate liberal if there ever was one, objected to Slemp’s departure. She described the doctor as efficient and well-qualified.
Fleischauer was quick to point out that she is also concerned because of the removal of one of West Virginia’s few female leaders.
“When there was someone in those daily briefings that looked like me who was very knowledgeable being taken off the screen, that bothers me,” she said.
I ponder the outcry if a male conservative insisted on “someone … that looked like me” in ANY situation.
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Let’s take a quick look at two House of Delegates districts as we start our summertime journey through all 67.
In the Northern Panhandle’s District One, there are two seats. Incumbent Pat McGeehan and former Delegate Mark Zatezalo represent the GOP.
A three-term former Delegate, Ronnie Jones and Jack Wood are the Democrat nominees.
Incumbent Democrat Randy Schwartzmiller chose to run for the State Senate rather than reelection.
McGeehan and Jones would be the early favorites in my book although Republicans could pick up a seat here. McGeehan is a liberty-type Republican aligned with many far right positions. Zatezalo could win the second spot.
In District Two, where there’s just one delegate, incumbent Democrat Phillip Diserio is being challenged by Republican Gordon Greer. Diserio should hold the seat.
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My good friend, Daniel Lutz is now the Mountain Party candidate for Governor. He was chosen when the party held a video convention a week ago.
Lutz is highly intelligent and articulate. I suspect Justice and Salango will do all they can to exclude Danny Lutz from any gubernatorial debates. He’d make too much sense.
Lutz was recently reelected as Soil Conservation District supervisor from Jefferson County, where he resides.
He is a commissioned Air Force veteran, former federal official and a “gentleman farmer” (my description; not his). His knowledge of history, particularly as it relates to the Panhandle, is hard to match.
While we aren’t always philosophically in tune, I welcome Lutz, his wit and wisdom to an otherwise non-inspirational field. He and his party platform will cost Salango some votes.
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.