It is sometimes amazing to behold how some governmental acts can be totally “coincidental” when it involves partisan politics. A good example of that came last week when a bill was introduced in the house of delegates to stop state officials from hiring any lawyer at a salary of more than $100,000 a year if that attorney does not have a license to practice law in the state.
Skeptical observers saw partisanship in the bill but sponsors confessed only to their sudden epiphany as a “coincidence” as to who the law would affect.
On the face of it, the bill’s lead sponsor, Delegate Doug Reynolds of Huntington, appears to have a legitimate point. After all, why would we the taxpayers fund a lawyer who can’t even practice law for us? Everybody from the janitors to the governor know, however, that the bill is simply a jabbing point at new Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Or maybe it IS just a coincidence.
There’s no reason to try to defend every action and comment made by Morrisey since he defeated long-time Democrat Attorney General Darrell McGraw in the November 2012 election. Morrisey immediately riled many with comments about what his “administration” planned to do with their legislative agenda. Most said legislative agendas are the perogative of the governor; not the attorney general.
And the new AG made few friends in public places when he announced the creation of a public integrity section that would look at the doings of public officials. While Morrisey eventually admitted having no prosecutorial powers under West Virginia law, he said his public integrity section would work with county prosecutors to uncover wrongdoing at that level. Suffice it to say that declaration did not please a number of public officials.
In addition, Morrisey is … well, a Republican in a Democrat institution: the state capitol. That’s what made him fair game to remove the stuffed black bears that had become a favorite of children throughout the state before Morrisey got to the capitol.
The bears, which apparently belonged to former Congressman and Secretary of State Ken Hechler, had been displayed in front of the AG’s office for years. Youngsters — and oldsters for that matter — loved to pose with the bears and have their pictures made when visiting the capitol.
Shortly after Morrisey defeated McGraw, though, a truck pulled up and loaded the bears for a trip to Hechler’s personal office in Kanawha City. The explanation was that Hechler had “loaned ” the bears to the AG’s office and was now taking them back. Oddly, the 98-year-old Hechler decided he wanted to display the bears at his private office just at the time Morrisey was elected.
The next “coincidence” involving Morrisey came with the introduction of Reynolds’ bill last week. House Bill 2788 is a direct strike at Morrisey as the “coincidences” continue. Morrisey announced in January he intended to hire Elbert Lin as “solicitor general,” a position that apparently never existed before in the AG’s office. Still, most agreed that the attorney general was within his authority to reorganize the office and if he wanted a solicitor general, nobody could stop him from having one.
Democrats have whined since Morrisey’s election that the new AG is not a “real West Virginian” because he maintained an out-of-state residence before seeking election here. One might think it was up to West Virginia voters to decide in November if they wanted a carpetbagger or an entrenched incumbent to continue in the office. Since Morrisey’s residence was a topic of debate in the campaign, it is not likely Mountain State voters elected him unaware of his past living locales.
The “crime” with Lin, though, is that he had no West Virginia law license since he was coming to Morrisey’s office by way of the United States supreme court. Never mind that Lin is in the process of getting his license or that he clerked for a U.S. Supreme Court justice, that lack of a law license was enough to cause Democrats in the legislature to suddenly develop a case of self-righteousness and cry foul.
Morrisey even changed Lin’s job title to “senior assistant to the attorney general” in response to the Democrat outcry. His salary, however, remained at the $130,000 Morrisey originially gave him.
The bill introduced by Reynolds has the following co-sponsors (all, coincidentally Democrats): Tiffany Lawrence and Stephen Skinner of Jefferson County; Josh Stowers of Lincoln; Isaac Sponaugle of Pendleton; Doug Skaff and Nancy Guthrie of Kanawha; Barbara Fleischauer of Monongalia; Denise Campbell of Randolph; David Walker of Clay; and Justin Marcum of Mingo.
Morrisey further displayed his newness to West Virginia politics when he declared all of these “coincidences” to be “petty partisan politics.”
Coincidences. Those of us who’ve been around awhile know them when we see them. Morrisey will hopefully figure it out over the next four years.
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Cabell County Republican Delegate Carol Miller has a new job title and description. Miller is now a part of the minority party’s leadership team and, as such, is the “New Member Director.”
With the influx of new GOP house members this year, I’d say Miller has had her work cut out for her.
It’s tough to figure out the workings of the legislature when you’ve been there for 40 years let alone after just a few weeks.
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There is a widespread assumption that State Senator Brooks McCabe will retire when his current term expires next year. McCabe, perhaps best known for his rousing foor speech in which he declared that he is a “state senator not a Kanawha County senator,” would open up that seat if he does not seek re-election.
While many have been rumored as potential candidates, it seems fairly certain that Kanawha Democrat Skaff will seek the seat in the upper body. Although Skaff has ascended quickly in house leadership, the thought is that he will seek the senate before launching a statewide campaign for secretary of state two years later.
Skaff’s secretary of state run is contingent on the belief that current Democrat Natalie Tennant will run for governor and give up the secretary position. That would throw the statewide position wide open and Skaff, well-liked among his colleagues, would be a logical choice. All of which would also fit into his plans to be governor before too long.
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Meanwhile, a freshman Republican Kanawha County delegate, Suzette Raines, is also being touted for McCabe’s senate seat. The charismatic young delegate would bring a number of assets into a race that could well favor Republicans in 2014.
Some doubt that Raines would run against Skaff, however.
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Any observer must hand it to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, however. For one thing, as many have said to me, Tomblin”looks” like a governor. He is always perfectly groomed and looks statesmanlike in his dark suits and ties.
My observation, too, is that Tomblin is very comfortable in his job as governor and exudes that confidence whenever one speaks with him.
Last week, he and I chatted and it occurred to me that most recent governors, during a legislative session, were bouncing around and worrying about what the legislature was up to. Tomblin shows none of that; appearing cool, calm and collected with, as noted, not a hair out of place.
Many said Tomblin was the most prepared man ever to assume the governor’s office. Frankly, I think it shows.
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Finally, one persistent rumor at the capitol is that former house Minority Leader Charlie Trump is thinking of running for the congressional seat now held by Republican Shelley Moore Capito. Capito is, of course, running for the United States senate next year.
The Republican Trump, who was well-liked on both sides of the aisle and in both the house and senate during his tenure there, would be a formidable candidate, likely bringing most of the Eastern Panhandle into his camp.
If several Kanawha County Republicans also run, as is expected, Trump might be the prohibitive favorite to win in 2014.
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