Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will hold his 22nd press conference Wednesday dealing with the state of emergency resulting from tainted public water supplies. The governor will announce he still doesn’t have any idea what is going on.
Then, the governor will introduce senior members of his staff and the crisis management team who will inform the public that they still don’t know what’s going on, either.
The press conference will then conclude with all parties patting themselves on the back for the great job they’ve done protecting the public.
While the preceding is sarcasm, it is not far from the truth. One Southern West Virginia legislator said he and other local leaders were summoned to listen in on a conference call Saturday afternoon. The call started 20 minutes late (not unusual for the Tomblin administration) and tied the legislator up for more than an hour.
“Nobody said anything they hadn’t said before, which is basically that they have no idea what happened,” said the irate legislator, a Democrat like Tomblin.
He also complained that when it came to question time, municipal and state leaders were told to email their inquiries rather than being allowed to address them immediately. “Our side of the call was muted,” he griped.
Meanwhile, I was present Friday afternoon in the House Minority Office (I have not yet been thrown out of there) when Leader Tim Armstead voiced his frustration about water.
Armstead had his assistant make calls “trying to find out who can give us some answers about water at Elkview.”
The delegate continued, “Everybody else has been told the water is usable and I have businesses in my district that haven’t been open in a week because West Virginia-American has not given an ‘all-clear’ for our area.”
The leader was even more frustrated when the secretary’s calling ended. She reported to Armstead that she had called emergency services, who had referred her to Homeland Security, who had referred her to the governor’s office. The governor’s office reportedly told her that there was nobody in state government handing the state of emergency and that the delegate should just call the water company directly.
Okay, folks, a federally-designated state of emergency is in effect for West Virginia and nobody in state government is in charge? Oh, come now.
Armstead and the rest of the Elkview area got clearance to use their water Friday afternoon, but the obvious neglect by the administration was apparent. It was also obvious in the numerous press conferences the governor held while providing no new information whatsoever.
Apparently someone told Tomblin that if he went before the cameras repeatedly and assured everyone he and his administration was in charge, the public would feel better. Pardon me for saying so, for I love Earl Ray Tomblin, but each press conference reminded me of the late Alexander Haig telling the American people he was in charge when President Reagan was shot.
There was panic in the streets at that one. Fortunately, West Virginians who had not bathed for a week were afraid to take to the streets because of body odor.
I will mention it again: I am a Tomblin supporter. He was — and is — my choice for governor. But the water crisis handling is pretty much indicative of how this administration handles everything. Nobody ever seems to be in charge. There’s no reason to post a “the buck stops here” sign on his desk.
As I told one gubernatorial aide, if Tomblin had walked in front of the cameras the first time and said, “I will not drink a glass of tap water or take anything but a sponge bath until every West Virginian has usable water,” he would have needed to say little more.
… Rumors have spread by Internet (where you can obviously believe everything you read) that former Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury was up to his old ways recently at a Bob Evans restaurant.
Purportedly, His Honor left his attractive waitress a risque note telling her he is available for future liaisons.
Although it would difficult to prove the judge wrote the note, the phone number listed on it actually belongs to Thornsbury.
Speaking of which, I, too, am available for future liaisons if anyone is interested.
… Adding fuel to the fire of an administration oblivious to panic, lawmakers were complaining last week when Wendy’s and McDonald’s were open across the street but clearance had not been given for the Capitol cafeteria to open.
“Why in the hell doesn’t the governor issue an order and tell the health department to inspect the cafeteria now,” said one House member as he munched on a pepperoni roll brought to the Capitol by an administrative assistant.
Yeah, we’ll wait for that order.
The cafeteria was opened back up by week’s end
… Filing is underway for various offices in the area. Most Mingo voters are waiting with bated breath as they await an announcement as to who the Team Mingo candidates are.
Surely, the voters of Mingo County will flock to the polls again to elect this “team,” which has proven reliable, honest and trustworthy in the past.
For the U.S. Senate seat that will become vacant with the retirement of Democrat Jay Rockefeller, two have filed. Republican Matthew W. Dodrill of Parkersburg and David B. Wamsley of Williamstown are the current candidates.
Of course, that is the race where U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, is set to square off with Democrat Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.
House of Representatives candidates at the end of the week included incumbent Republican David B. McKinley in the First District; Republican Alex X. Mooney of Charles Town in the Second; Republican Jim Moss of Hurricane in the Second; Republican state Sen. Evan Jenkins of Huntington in the Third; and Democrat Richard Ojeda of Holden in the Third.
The Third is the district of incumbent Democrat Nick Rahall, who was scheduled to be in Charleston today to make his candidacy official.
Switch-hitter Ryan Ferns, who became a Republican after being elected to the state House of Delegates as a Democrat, has filed for re-election in the First District. Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, who has always been a Republican, is running for re-election in the Fourth.
Vicki Dunn-Marshall, a Republican with an apparent solid following, has filed for the state Senate in the Fifth District, where Jenkins is retiring to run for the U.S. House.
Mingo’s own Democratic state Sen. Truman Chafin filed for re-election despite being involved in a vehicle accident that required 15 stitches. The senator is recuperating well, according to wife Tish.
Republican Gary Johngrass has filed to challenge Democrat state Sen. Ron Stollings in the Seventh District. Johngrass lives in West Hamlin while Stollings, part of the SDenate leadership team, is a practicing physician in Madison.
At this point, liberal Democrat Erik Wells is unopposed for re-election in the Eighth District. That one includes portions of Kanawha and Putnam counties. Many expect a strong conservative challenger for Wells in what must be termed a right-wing district.
Del. Doug Skaff Jr. also filed for the Senate from District 17.
… State House races of interest include incumbents Carol Miller, a Republican, and Democrat Jim Morgan filing from the 16th District. Lauren E. Plymale, with a household name in the district, has also filed in a race where three are elected. Incumbent Democrat Kevin Craig has announced he will not run this year.
Pistol-packing incumbent Republican Kelli Sobonya is running for re-election in the 18th district. She famously dropped her purse, which caused her gun to pop out at a gathering with Gov. Tomblin.
Democrat Josh Barker of the 22nd District is running for election. Among the challengers will be former Lincoln County Board of Education member Gary McCallister. Barker is from Boone County.
Barry L. Brown of Van has filed to challenge for the seat held by Republican Delegate Joshua Nelson. Brown is a Democrat.
Incumbent Democrats Rupie “Thump-her” Phillips and Teddy “Ted” Tomblin have filed for re-election in the 14th. Another Democrat, David Graham of Logan, has also filed.
With Skaff running for the state Senate, several candidates have filed in his old House District, 35. The district is also represented by Republicans Eric Nelson, who has filed; Suzette Raines, who is still apparently trying to decide whether to run for president of the United States or the state House; and John B. McCuskey, who may be too important to run for another piddly House term.
Newcomers in that race are Democrats Andrew D. Byrd, perennial candidate Thornton Cooper, David S. Harless, Gary Winter and A. Richard McGinnis. Another Republican, Marie Sprouse McDavid, has also filed.
The 36th District, currently represented by Democrats Nancy Guthrie, Danny Wells and Mark Hunt, has seen Hunt and Wells file for re-election. Two Republicans, Charles Basford of Belle and Vaughn T. Sizemore of South Charleston, have also filed.
In the 37th, where Democrat incumbent Meshea Poore has announced she will run for Congress, two Democrats are on the ballot now: Mike Pushkin and Robert E. Sheets.
Incumbent Republican Ron Walters has filed for re-election in the 39th.
… For now, just listing the candidates takes up all the column space. But soon — very soon — your favorite political columnist (move over, Phil) will tell you what he knows about each and every one.
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In the meantime, comments, story ideas and rumors are always welcome. Use the email listed or call my cell, 304-533-5185.