Those familiar with West Virginia politics will recall Seiler’s regular gossip columns as the “in” place to keep up with rumors and political news during her long tenure with United Press International (UPI) and The Charleston Gazette.
Week after week, politicians and their supporters rushed to the Virginia Street corner where The Gazette first went on sale around midnight to get a peek at Fanny’s column. Folks wanted to know if Seiler had written something about them that week.
Seiler, who seemed to be everywhere all the time at the capitol, always said that when she retired, she would just disappear. Basically that’s what she did. The only times I have seen or heard of Seiler since she retired is at Charleston’s Capitol Market, shopping for produce.
Thus, there has long been a void to fill in keeping up with Mountain State politics and we intend to attempt to fill a part of it here.
While we will concentrate on the politicians and public policy decisions of most interest to our readers, politics throughout West Virginia will be the theme.
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Speaking of which, the legislature convenes for its regular session this week. Among the newcomers in a class that includes more Republicans than any legislature in 50 years, is Boone County’s Josh Nelson.
Nelson surprised numerous political pundits by winning election to the House of Delegates in a district that is about 80 percent Democrat. In winning the seat, Nelson defeated incumbent Democrat Larry Barker, who had been a fixture at the Boone County courthouse for years.
Those familiar with the race believe Barker, accurately or not, got labeled as a friend of Democrat President Barack Obama and an enemy of coal. Needless to say, nobody — Democrat or Republican — is going to run well in Boone County as an opponent of coal mining.
Nelson ran a well-organized, vigorous campaign and defeated Barker handily.
Rumors circulated before the legislative session indicated that some coalfield Democrat legislators were working with Nelson on pro-coal legislation.
Still, it will likely require an impressive two-year performance if Nelson is to retain the seat to which he was elected in 2012. Democrats learned a great deal from Barker’s defeat, mostly seeing that a Democrat can now be beaten in any part of the state, no matter how large the Democrat registration majority.
Because of this, the district’s leadership is certain to be sure their Democrat candidate in 2014 is clearly pro-coal.
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Speaking of partisan politics, this column’s author is a registered Republican. But this column is not a member of any political party. It is neither Democrat nor Republican and we will make every effort to be just as fair to one party as the other.
From the personal side, I am likely the only registered Republican in West Virginia and perhaps the nation who will openly admit to having voted for Obama’s re-election. That doesn’t make me an Obama supporter; I simply couldn’t bring myself to vote for the waffling Mitt Romney.
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On the subject of partisan politics, Chapmanville Regional High School’s premier Head Football Coach chuckled as he told me about the long-ago Logan County school board candidate who had an interesting slogan.
“On the back of his card, it had, ‘Democrat for non-partisan board of education,’” Barker laughed.
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Still, the greatest campaign slogan of all likely comes from another ancient legislative campaign in Logan. The candidate’s slogan emphasized “never CONVICTED of a felony.”
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The state’s suddenly-inspired Republicans met for their annual statewide Lincoln Day Dinner last week at the Charleston Marriott Hotel.
Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito was the keynote speaker, using the occasion to drum up support for her already-announced bid for the United States senate next year.
The Capito senate bid has brought on a great deal of speculation about how it will affect others. Capito is running for the seat being vacated by incumbent Democrat Jay Rockefeller.
Capito’s house district, which has re-elected her by ever-increasing numbers, is thought to be a generally GOP district. That leads to speculation as to who will be the Republican house candidate in 2014. Among the names most frequently mentioned are Delegate Eric Nelson of Kanawha County, former Kanawha legislator Steve Harrison and ex-Eastern Panhandle legislator Larry Faircloth.
Faircloth was making the rounds at the dinner, telling friends he is definitely running for congress. Nelson told me he has not decided whether to run or not, and Harrison has indicated an interest but told me he has not decided to formally declare his candidacy.
Another potential contender who would bring a strong resume to the race is Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall of Putnam County. Hall represented Mason and Putnam counties for years in the House of Delegates before being elected to the senate. His wife, Vickie, comes from a well-known Point Pleasant family.
On the Democrat side, Kanawha Delegate Doug Skaff, Jr., has been mentioned as a top contender but most think he would not run if Nelson does, due to a close personal relationship with the Kanawha Republican.
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Meanwhile, most knowledgeable pundits think Capito will have relatively easy sailing to the senate, particularly since Rockefeller bowed out. There has been speculation, likely fueled by the man himself, that multiple-loser John Raese might challenge the congresswoman.
Raese, the Morgantown multi-millionaire, is an outspoken critic of Capito’s father, former GOP Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr., and allows that dislike to filter over to the daughter. Some think Raese might file against Capito just to force her to spend funds in the primary. He could also likely stir up some Tea Party support since he is widely viewed as far-right wing while Capito is seen as more of a moderate.
Democrats have guessed that former Governor Gaston Caperton might run. Others consider current Congressman Nick Joe Rahall as a potential contender. A member of the well-known Goodwin family might also run, folks speculate.
The solid money, though, is on Capito meeting a much lesser-known Democrat in November 2014 since her election seems virtually assured.
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On the subject of Chapmanville Regional High, some Lincoln County Harts residents are organizing a serious effort to introduce legislation to give their area a regional school board. Currently, Harts district high school students are automatically enrolled at CRHS but Harts voters have no say as to who is elected to the school board.
One idea floated has been to require that the Logan board have at least one member from the Harts school district. Obviously, that will be an uphill battle with Logan politicians.
— Ron Gregory writes about affairs, happenings and events at the W.Va. Capitol for Gregory’s Web. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org