Governor made Mingo ballot problem

September 3, 2014

By Ron Gregory


How would you like to be governor or secretary of state and prove you have zero confidence in the citizens of Mingo County?

That’s exactly what Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant have said to the people of Mingo. A big “we” will decide who your Family Court judge will be for two and a half years; you have no voice in it.

While all kinds of legal terms can be thrown around by Tennant’s staff, the simple fact is the law does not prohibit an election in Mingo County to fill the unexpired Family Court term. Tomblin created the problem when he decided to appoint former Family Court Judge Miki Thompson to a vacant circuit judge position. If the governor, who waited for months beyond the legal deadline to make the appointment, had just waited until mid-September, nobody would argue about his right to choose a successor.

But when the governor was moved by whatever source (I would suggest the Holy Spirit, but who am I to guess?) to choose Thompson immediately, he made the problem we now have.

It is the governor, too, who could make the situation better by appointing Jonathan “Duke” Jewell to the post. Since Jewell is the only candidate that County Clerk “Big Jim” Hatfield intends to put on the ballot, that might make the matter moot.

But, let’s face it, some Mingo County politicians are unhappy with Jewell as the choice. They want one of the other candidates and are determined to get Tomblin to appoint that person. They, too, want to thwart the will of Mingo Countians.

Tomblin may never ask for your vote again but Madam Secretary is running for the U.S. Senate. And she expects to get a big vote in Mingo, where she has just insulted the voters? We shall see on Nov. 4 if that is a brilliant strategy.

On another note, those associated with the independent House of Delegates campaign of Larry Rogers of Logan often rail about incumbents. Everybody, basically, is crooked at the statehouse, courthouse and beyond, they say.

These are among the folks who constantly have the “inside scoop” on federal target letters and coming indictments of public officials. None have turned out to be true.

Rogers appears to be running with former Democrat Del. Ralph Rodighiero, although that seems a strange strategy. Rodighiero appears to be abandoning his fellow Democrat, incumbent Del. Rupie Phillips,

But Rogers is one of those who figures all incumbents are scoundrels. Rodighiero, while not being as vocal, is certainly a political maverick. So the combination might have some logical base.

What bothers me, though, is that Rogers appears to draw very close to the ethical and legal line himself. While he proudly calls himself “co-author” of West Virginia’s disastrous “Castle Law,” Rogers also is a leader of the Omar Area Crime Watch. He describes himself currently as an independent politically, although he was a longtime registered Democrat.

“I never actually was a Democrat,” he recently told The Logan Banner. Oh, yes he was; he was registered that way. That double-talk is a bit of a problem for me, too.

Still, the biggest concern is Rogers getting his Crime Watch buddies involved in political campaigns. A recent event at Chief Logan State Park was billed as a rally for Rogers and Rodighiero. To blur the lines, perhaps, it also was a fundraiser for an individual in the community. So, while Rogers and Rodighiero signs are prevalent in photos from the event, so are pictures of Omar Crime Watch equipment and facilities.

For tax purposes, an organization must comply with a requirement that it not be involved in political activities. Was the event at Chief Logan a political affair? It surely seems to me that it was. Should the Omar Area Crime Watch have been involved? Absolutely not, even if they can move the line far enough to stay just inside it.

Holier-than-thou candidates who ridicule public servants are a dime a dozen. That description seems to fit Rogers.

Meanwhile, could somebody send a carrier-pigeon message to Republican House of Delegates candidate Michel Moffatt? He complained last week that I refer to him as a New Yorker and wonders why I don’t call U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller the same. Can we tell him that this is an equitable column and I do refer to Rockefeller that way?

I respect and admire the people of Mingo County and would gladly accept their political judgment over Tomblin’s and Tennant’s any day of the week. Your comments, story ideas and gossip are always welcome. Call my cell, 304-533-5185, or use my email address.