Gregory’s Web for July 19, 2020
by Ron Gregory
That’s often what comes when people have no freedom. And liberty can definitely slip away in bits and pieces. Tyranny doesn’t have to come suddenly; it often sneaks in like a thief in the night.
I believe in individual freedom. Americans in general used to agree with me.
The line between freedom and oppression may have narrowed, just as Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev said it would years ago.
Governments are best that empower the people to make their own decisions. There’s reasonable limits to that, of course. We can’t let every driver travel on whichever side of the road he or she prefers, for example.
Which brings us to 2020, Covid 19, masks, social distancing and America.
First, the virus is not a hoax, not real or impotent. It’s real; it kills people. So does the flu. So do car wrecks.
We haven’t banned driving because of thousands of accidents.
Those who insist on wearing masks still serve and enjoy alcohol with their meals. Drunk drivers cause accidents. Accidents cause deaths to drivers, passengers and others. Is it time for Prohibition again?
South Dakota never quarantined, ordered mask wearing or enacted any other draconian measures. Their virus death rate is the nation’s lowest and their economy is still growing.
What’s most amazing is how hostile folks get when debating mask wearing. One lady on social media echoed others in saying anyone with a medical excuse against wearing masks “should just stay at home.”
I asked her if a method of making sure such people stay quarantined might just be to load them in box cars and take them to concentration camps. She was deeply offended by that but what’s the difference?
This virus, if we are to believe anything scientists says, is new and unique. There has been insufficient time for studies to determine what spreads it, what doesn’t and what its long term effects are.
Yet the masses accept any doctor who says mask wearing is essential to save life as we know it. Some, like the lady I mentioned, become belligerent if someone has the nerve to appear in public without a mask.
It’s amazing that the mask debate could become so intense.
If I had not been on the government side of the street for so much of my career, I’d believe every conspiracy theory that the virus is being used to create a socialist state. I just hope it isn’t true.
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Hats off to the state House of Delegates for summoning the courage to demand an extraordinary legislative session to deal with the virus. More than 60 Democrats and Republicans joined to make the request.
Meanwhile, not a single patriotic, liberty-loving Senator stood up except for retiring Republican Tom Azinger. He didn’t file a letter seeking a session but did join in the Writ of Mandamus petition to the Supreme Court seeking to order Governor Jim Justice to call the special session.
Morgan County Republican Charles Trump, likely the next Senate President, told me he believes Justice is doing a good job with the crisis and a special session is not needed.
In the collegial world of the Senate, I believe those Democrats who were told not to seek an extra session because Republicans would oppose it. Since the GOP holds the majority, that doomed any possibility that the peoples’ representatives would pass on Justice’s management by executive order.
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I have tremendous respect for legislative leaders like House Speaker Roger Hanshaw and Trump. I realize that Justice was generally correct — but clumsy as usual — in saying some Democrats would use a special session to grandstand politically.
Still, legislators do represent a third branch of government. The inherent system of checks and balances is void if one unit of government just shuts down.
A smart politician (a quality Justice has never been accused of) would want some legislative review. Unilateral decisions can later lead to all kinds of political and even legal troubles. Sometimes those can be avoided by having more eyes on the initial actions.
In this case, 268 eyes and minds reviewing what the Governor does would arguably be better than four (his and Bray’s). It would also insulate him if legal questions ever arose (“Well, Mr. Prosecutor, the legislature approved that expenditure for a Covid 19 statue at the Greenbrier.”)
I fully believe there should be an extraordinary session. I also think the lack of demand for accountability has shown some “liberty” Republicans to be what my friend, Mike Greenleaf, called Putnam Senator Eric Tarr. “All hat and no cattle” he said of the senator. Or “all show and no go,” as my friend and gubernatorial candidate Danny Lutz once described an Eastern Panhandle politician.
I’m afraid there are plenty of those who talk a great game and then wimp out when the chips are down. Also, there’s no doubt some delegates signed on to a special session only after being assured the Senate would never agree to it.
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I mourn with thousands of others the passing of a great and humble man, Shirley Love.
Nobody who grew up even close to southern West Virginia in the 1960s missed knowing Love. The voice and very image of WOAY Channel 4’s “Saturday Night Wrestling,” Love was beloved by the scores who watched him.
His personality dominated every broadcast as friends and neighbors sat in front of ancient TVs to watch Gene and Jan Madrid and others perform.
Then he became a legislator, fighting for his constituents as a senator and delegate.
Shirley Love will be sorely missed. Condolences to his wonderful wife, Audrey, his children and family.
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It’s just one of my thousands of anecdotes. In the small Gilmer County village of Cedarville, we were one of the first families to own a television. Thus, friends and neighbors flocked to our house on Saturday night to watch Love and wrestling.
One night a man and his wife were seated on our couch watching the matches. He was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt and she was in a fashionable dress that hit her around the knees.
During one interval, Love was discussing the need to attend Sunday School the next day. He stopped and looked directly into the camera. “And I’ll know if you take my advice and go to Sunday School,” he said in that perfect, deep voice of his. “You know, I see you sitting right there now.”
Immediately, the lady reached down and pulled down the hem of her dress.
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Sam Petsonk and Patrick Morrisey are already teeing off at each other in the Attorney General race. No pandemic is going to slow that one down.
Republican incumbent Morrisey has withstood strong attacks before but he can expect everything including the kitchen sink from Democrat Petsonk.
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Democrat Delegate Isaac Sponaugle who lost to Petsonk in the Democrat primary wins my vote for best summation of Justice’s pandemic management.
“I don’t know about anarchy, but I think he is trying to establish absolute power,” Sponaugle said. “We’ve been operating in a state of emergency for over five months and closing in on half a year. The governor is trying to spend $1.25 billion all by himself by the end of the year with no oversight and no check whatsoever on his power or authority. If he wants to run the state like a monarchy, then he needs to go to the voters and say make me king of the state and abolish the Legislature.”
I like a man who says what he really thinks.
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A bizarre situation gets no better in Raleigh County, where they remain one magistrate short this week.
Chief Judge Andrew Dimlich has promised some conclusion soon, saying he plans to meet with the other judges Monday to discuss it.
At issue is the “election” of former Magistrate Steve Massie to one of the seats in the June primary. Massie had earlier gotten in trouble with the Judicial Investigation Commission, resigned and agreed never to serve again.
But when the agreement came, it was too late to get Massie’s name off the ballot. On primary election day, he got a little more than 400 votes more than the only other candidate on the ballot, Stephanie French. Two write-in’s were hardly factors.
French believes she should be appointed since she was the top vote-getter aside from Massie. The campaign was very bitter, with allegations of sign stealing, sex tapes (that never surfaced) and name-calling.
Dimlich says he’s appointing someone to fill Massie’s term through December 31 and would like to see an election held in November to choose who fills the following four-year period.
Dimlich told the press that he had asked the state Supreme Court if an election to fill the seat could legally be held in November. When I asked the court if it had answered, a spokesperson only said, “the ball is back in Judge Dimlich’s court.”
I, for one, think French deserves the appointment since she was the only legitimate candidate on the ballot.
We will see …
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At the very least, Supreme Court Justice Evan Jenkins doesn’t look “judicial” for an exchange he had with Kanawha Family Court Judge Jim Douglas.
Douglas, a candidate for Supreme Court in June, ran a television ad questioning the qualifications of “three justices.” Although Jenkins was not a candidate, he took offense and initiated email contact with Douglas.
They exchanged barbed comments during which Douglas pointed out that some of Jenkins’ comments did not stand up to scrutiny.
A Justice of the Supreme Court should be above the petty comments and “peeing contest” Jenkins conducted with Douglas.
While Jenkins says Douglas apologized for the ads, the family court judge says he didn’t.
Frankly, the Douglas allegations were pretty much accurate, leaving little or nothing to apologize for.
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In our continuing effort to get through a look at all the House of Delegates races, this week we move to District 14.
That’s where incumbent Republican Jim Butler went for the gold ring of the State Senate and came up third. His far right campaign to unseat Senate President Mitch Carmichael may have worked but the major beneficiary was the eventual winner, Amy Nichole Grady not Butler.
Thus, we have an open seat in House Fourteen, perhaps ripe for a Democrat steal.
Johnnie Wamsley II edged out Brian Scott in the GOP primary while Chris Yeager is the Democrat nominee.
Depending somewhat on the level of enthusiastic support Butler gives Wamsley, this could be a flip to Democrat in November or whenever Justice decrees the general election will be held.
Republican Geoff Foster is already an institution in District 15 despite his relative youth. Theresa Jackson is his Democrat opponent but this seat will remain Republican.
District 16 is difficult to judge. The current three-member lineup includes Democrat Sean Hornbuckle and Republicans Daniel Linville and John Mandt Jr.
The three are all seeking re-election and a reasonable prognosticator might say they’re the favorites. I’ve never been reasonable.
Hornbuckle is joined on his ticket by Anna Lewis and Dakota Nelson. Republican Huntington City Councilman and auto dealer Mark Bates rounds out the GOP side.
Hornbuckle has led the group in the past but may well be challenged for number one by Linville this time. The Republican freshman has worked well with leadership and stayed out of controversy.
Mandt couldn’t seem to avoid controversial situations his first year but appears to have settled into a calm era now. His name identification, linked forever with Stewart’s Hot Dogs, is formidable and — on balance — he’s a genial guy. He likely controls his own destiny. If he avoids further flareups such as LGBTQ controversies, he’ll be in the top three. If not, I have serious doubts.
If Mandt stumbles, Bates and Nelson may pick up the pieces. Bates is already formidable in a district with only two Republicans currently. Somehow, either Mandt or Hornbuckle have to fall for Bates to win. I see no scenario where that happens to the savvy Hornbuckle.
Nelson, who ran last time, has a shot especially if Mandt starts a verbal war with some group. Nelson has far more endorsements than in 2018, when he ran reasonably well. If those endorsements lead to decent financing, he’s a threat.
One problem for Nelson is a public parting of the ways with Democrat Governor candidate Stephen Smith before the primary. Apparently initiated by Smith, the spat undoubtedly cost Smith valuable Cabell County votes in his narrow loss to Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango.
The “West Virginia Can’t Wait” group of candidates we discussed last week should include Nelson. If so, he has a reasonable shot.
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Call your nearest “liberty-minded” Republican Senator and ask, “who exactly is guarding the hen house?”
Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185 or email@example.com. Hear his political commentary at 7 a.m., Mondays on the Tom Roten Morning Show on NewsRadio 800, WVHU, Huntington.