July 24, 2013
Taking a look at new House Speaker Tim Miley’s leadership team leaves little wonder that many fretted that Miley’s election would signal trouble for the Democrat leadership.
In the press statements announcing his appointments, Miley proclaimed his “leadership team” was diverse in a number of ways, including geographic location. As one House staffer said after looking at the list, “if that is geographic diversity, the entire state must be located in North-central West Virginia.”
A second tier of Miley appointees is dominated by Southern legislators. Geographic diversity must not include the entire state, after all. Regardless, Miley has assembled a leadership team that will be liberal, left-wing and under union control. Republicans hope that means they will become the majority party in 2014 once voters realize what has happened.
Many on the Republican side of the aisle were relieved that Delegate Harry Keith White will become majority leader. White is losing his position as head of the finance committee in Miley’s shuffle. Braxton County’s liberal Democrat Brent Boggs takes over at finance and most expect that to be a fiscal and political disaster.
White challenged Miley for the speaker’s position left vacant when former Speaker Rick Thompson took a high-paying job in the Earl Ray Tomblin administration. Everyone assumed White’s payback from Miley would be to lose the powerful finance job. Miley, of course, fashioned the story to say he and White are “close” and he wanted to work closely with him. That recalled the old adage, “keep friends close and enemies closer.”
Miley moved Delegate Tim Manchin, surprisingly enough of Marion County in North-central West Virginia, as judiciary chairman. He also appointed Delegate Mark Hunt, of the South in Kanawha County, as vice-chair.
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The selection process to replace former Lincoln County House of Delegates member Josh Stowers has stoked more political infighting in Lincoln and set the stage for the possible appointment of a Boone Countian to replace him.
The real possibility, perhaps probability, that Danville Town Manager Josh Barker could win Stowers’s seat has caused a great deal of discussion in recent days.
The scenario has played out as many political pros might have expected. Lincoln County, as proven by the 2010 and 2012 elections, is greatly fragmented within the majority Democrat party. Because of the relatively equal strength of two factions in the party, naming anyone from Lincoln to Stowers’s seat may be a liability for Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.
The thinking goes that what is known as the “courthouse gang” will be thrilled in Tomblin appoints their man but disgusted if he chooses the ProPac or Harless faction candidate. While the names of who those two factions might be supporting appears to be ever-changing, it is nonetheless accepted that one candidate will emerge as the “courthouse gang” candidate and another as the ProPac candidate.
Making that assumption leads politicos to feel that if Tomblin is given the names of one gang candidate and one ProPac candidate, he would be well-served to choose neither. The thought is that by naming either of the Lincoln Countians, the governor would be eliminating any future support from the losing faction. Although Tomblin himself is not likely to run for office again, he certainly has friends and allies he wants to see win politically.
That leads to Barker, or any other candidate Boone, Putnam or Logan counties might produce, although Barker’s is the name most mentioned up until now.. If Tomblin has the name of, say, Gary McCallister and Chris Fleming from Lincoln as well as Barker from Boone, the politically smart thing to do would be to name Barker. Lincoln politicos have long memories. If Tomblin chooses the candidate of one faction over another, he cements his legacy with at least one of the Lincoln County groups.
There is the possibility, too, that Lincoln County Democrat Chair Tracy Dempsey might be one of the three named. Dempsey has a lengthy political resume, having served in the state senate as well as Lincoln County assessor. The appointment of Dempsey would definitely raise the ire of the ProPac group, since they successfully supported first-time candidate Josh Brumfield and he easily handled Dempsey in the assessor race.
Thus, as the week began, the governor, on vacation at Myrtle Beach, faces a potentially tough decision when he returns home over the weekend. There is little, if any, hope that the two factions in Lincoln would unite behind just one candidate. That means Tomblin, if he wants to put a Lincoln Countian in the seat, is going to make lifetime enemies of some people.
As a skilled politician himself, who represented Lincoln County for years in the senate, Tomblin is aware of the risks involved. It will be interesting to see how he chooses to handle the situation.
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But Boone County could easily pick up a seat in the legislature with Lincoln losing one as things now stand. That wouldn’t sit well with Lincoln County’s leadership who worked with legislators to gerrymander the district to Lincoln’s liking for the 2012 election. At one time, the old Nineteenth District comprised most of Lincoln County, a part of Putnam and larger sections of Logan and Boone. When that configuration was in place, the district chose four delegates. Under the current plan, there are just two and the odds favor electing those from Lincoln.
The other current delegate is Jeff Eldridge. I commented earlier that Coal River Road in Alum Creek was the state’s best represented area in the state since both Stowers and Eldridge live within a stone’s throw of each other.
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One interesting dynamic of the selection process is that Delegate Rupie Phillips has made known to everyone that he wants Fleming appointed to Stowers’s seat. Phillips, who was pictured at the capitol with a machine gun in hand after being charged a year ago with domestic violence, is said to think he is a “king maker” now that he won re-election despite all his troubles.
Many in the new Twenty-second District have suggested that Phillips should stay out of their nomination process.
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It only took Lincoln County commissioners four months to formalize the termination of former County Administrator Judy Johnson. Johnson was placed on administrative leave with pay earlier, leading me to observe that I would gladly accept a high-paying county job if the commission wanted to follow up with a suspension with pay.
State police investigators in South Charleston are said to be looking at Johnson’s performance as county administrator with an eye toward any possible violations of the law.
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Republican Ron Walters, Jr. has put off until early August his planned announcement that he will run for the second district congressional seat being vacated by Shelley Moore Capito. Walters said his original plan to announce during this week’s interims was stifled when he was called out of town on business for the week. Nevertheless, Walters told me his campaign is “99.9 percent certain.”
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Finally, thanks are in order to my bestest friend, Alicia McCoy and her colleagues at Lamar Outdoor Advertising for the new “header” that will be featured with this column. The drawing of a spider’s web was quite creative and I appreciate Alicia and all she does to make my life easier and better. She IS the best.
The folks at Lamar who helped her deserve my thanks too. So, here is a pitch: if you need a billboard, go with Lamar.
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