30 June 2007

Hancock County Approves Table Games

Though not by the margin seen in nearby Ohio County earlier this month.

MetroNews has the final tally as 5,022 votes in favor, or 59%, and 41% against, or 3,503 votes.

The Associated Press also offers details.

Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort in Chester had been perhaps the biggest proponent of casino table games, " as a way to create new jobs and preserve existing ones as competition for gamblers grows from neighboring states," the AP reports.

But gambling foes made a stand in Hancock County, AP continues, and "erected billboards along state Route 2 warning voters, 'A lie well told and stuck to is easier believed than the truth.'"

Ohio County voters OK'd the games for Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming Center in one of two special elections June 9, 66% to 34%.

Jefferson County rejected table games on that date, 56% to 44%.

Kanawha County votes Aug. 11.

29 June 2007

Capito in Crosshairs

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is including U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, W.Va.-2nd, among 14 House GOP incumbents it plans to attack next week in a sort of Independence Day salvo.

As The Associated Press reports, the DCCC plans to launch this radio ad and pepper Capito's district with "robo-calls" to allege that she has voted against the interests of the troops and veterans.

But as I point out in the AP story, FactCheck.org has criticized at least one of the allegations leveled in the ad.

The Politico also has a story on the DCCC effort, as does The Hill.

The Charleston Gazette, meanwhile, reports that Anne Barth has decided not to consider challenging Capito in 2008. A longtime aide to Sen. Robert C. Byrd, Barth had been touted as a candidate for a field that already includes state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley.

Table Games

Slightly more than 1,600 Hancock County voters cast early ballots in advance of Saturday's special election on table games, County Clerk Eleanor Straight tells The Associated Press. The early voting turnout equaled about 7.5 percent of registered voters.

MetroNews also has a story on the upcoming election. In semi-related news, AP reports on the planned sale of Binion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel in Las Vegas by MTR Gaming Group Inc. MTR owns Chester's Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort, the intended beneficiary of Saturday's vote.

And Public Broadcasting finds few takers for new casino jobs in Ohio County, which approved table games earlier this month. "Classes started on Monday at WV Northern Community College to train dealers for casino jobs in Wheeling, but racetrack officials are disappointed in the low turnout,"Public Broadcasting reports.

28 June 2007

Byrd Responds To Age Questions

U.S Sen. Robert C. Byrd gave a 20-minute floor speech this morning addressing recent media report that have scrutinized his age and health.

"I have had some time to become accustomed to the increasing distance between the year of my birth and the current date," the 89-year-old told colleagues.

The Associated Press has the story. Besides the earlier-referenced quote from the speech, Byrd also targeted today's youth-obsessed society.

""In a culture of botox, wrinkle cream and hair dye, we cannot imagine that becoming older is a good thing, an experience to look forward to and a state worthy of respect," he said.

MetroNews also has a story, with audio. I offer some background here.

Quote of the Day

My only adversity is age... I will continue to do this work until this old body just gives out and drops. Just don't expect that to be any time soon."

-- U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., during a Thursday floor speech addressing recent press scrutiny of his age and health.

They Voted For You: Immigration

U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., helped reject a bid to revive pending immigration legislation.

The 46-53 vote marks the second time this month that a majority of senators _ including Byrd and Rockefeller, helped derail the bill.

The Associated Press has a story on the latest.

They Voted For...Themselves?

U.S. Reps. Nick Rahall, D-3rd, and Alan Mollohan, D-1st, both voted to increase Congressional pay by about $4,400, to nearly $170,000 annually, according to The Associated Press.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, voted against the necessarily procedural question in the 244-181 roll call.

As AP reports, "Democrats and Republicans alike killed a bid by Reps. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Lee Terry, R-Neb., to get a direct vote to block the (cost of living allowance) _ , which is automatically awarded unless lawmakers vote to block it. "

AP also reports that the annual increase stalled the previous two years, partly because of partisan squabbling and partly because "Democrats last year fulfilled a campaign promise to deny themselves a pay hike until Congress raised the minimum wage. Delays in the minimum wage bill cost every lawmaker about $3,100 this year."

Mark Your Calendars

The West Virginia GOP will host Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan at the annual summer conference of its state executive committee July 14 in Huntington. Details here.

As for the Democrats, I'm told that such heavy hitters as U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (also a U.S. Rep., D-Md.) are co-sponsoring a Washington, D.C., fundraiser this evening for state Sen. John Unger. The Berkeley County Democrat plans to run against Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd., in 2008.

Gov. Joe Manchin, meanwhile, headlined a fundraiser for Kentucky's Democratic Party last night in Louisville, according to this redoubtable blog from the Lexington Herald-Leader.

27 June 2007

Secretary of State Strikes a Different Sort of Gold

Here's a neat story that nicely coincides with West Virginia's birthday and the Fourth of July: a review of documents in a fire-proof vault at the Secretary of State's office revealed previously overlooked records from the state's founding and other historic events.

As The Associated Press reports, the trove includes the state's first executive journal (which begins with the first governor's 1863 oath of office), minutes of the 1872 State Constitutional Convention, and the 1936 certificate of announcement for the candidacy for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"So many times we get wrapped up in the business of the office, we don't realize some of the treasures that are here," chief of staff Ben Beakes told AP.

The Register-Herald of Beckley also has the story, as does Public Broadcasting, offering this audio interview.

Secretary of State Betty Ireland also issued a release on the discovery.

Absent Lawmaker Responds

Delegate Ron Thompson, D-Raleigh, spoke to The Register-Herald of Beckley about his continued absence from the Legislature (background here).

Still under a doctor's care, Thompson said he does not know when he will be able to return but that “I am working myself back to be able to attend the interims."

The Associated Press has also picked up the story.

Tobacco Bonds

In this story from The Associated Press, I tried to provide some context to the recent $807 million tobacco bond deal that was made final Tuesday. I consulted the National Association of State Retirement Administrators to see how the influx of cash would improve the funding ranking of the teacher pension plan.

I also spoke to Attorney General Darrell McGraw, who made West Virginia just the third state to file the sort of lawsuit that resulted in the historic, multibillion-dollar settlement with the tobacco industry.

MetroNews covered the Tuesday event as well, as did The Charleston Gazette.

26 June 2007

They Voted For You: Unions

West Virginia's Democratic U.S. Senators, Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, voted for the motion to advance the Employee Free Choice Act of 2007 toward a Senate vote on passage.

The 51-48 vote fell short of the 60-vote margin needed for the cloture motion to prevail.

The Associated Press has a story on the vote, and also offers this sidebar that looks at at how unions have fared in recent organizing elections.

They Voted For You: Immigration Cloture

U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., voted against today's motion bringing the pending immigration bill back to the Senate floor.

The motion prevailed, 64-35.

The Associated Press is tracking the resurfacing of the legislation.

25 June 2007

Table Games: Hancock County

The Wheeling newspapers have been tracking early voting in advance of Hancock County's special election Saturday on the table games question.

About 1,000 residents have already cast ballots, or about 4.6 percent of registered voters. Early voting ends Wednesday.

"One of the reasons behind the increase in early voters in Hancock County is the bus service Mountaineer (Race Track and Gaming Resort in Chester) is providing to the community," the Sunday News-Register reported. "The track is not only providing a shuttle service for its employees, but also for community members who don’t have a method of transportation."

Jefferson and nearby Ohio counties both saw early voting by more than 10 percent of their registered voters before the split decisions in their June 9 special elections.

Kanawha County also plans to hold early voting before its special balloting on Aug. 11.

The Associated Press, meanwhile reports that slot machines _ like the video lottery terminals hosted by West Virginia's four tracks _ "have done nothing to attract more people to horse racing" (and I suppose that would apply to dog racing as well).

This Just In: Byrd Old

In this story today from The Associated Press, I try to provide context to the latest conjecture brought on by the advanced age of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

I talked to Larry Sabato, who contrasted Byrd's recent appearances with that of the late Strom Thurmond, in the years before the South Carolina Republican left the Senate in 2003.

Sabato also cited history to opine that governors court voter wrath by arranging to have themselves appointed to open Senate seats.

This scenario has been bandied about regarding Byrd's seat since at least 1993, when Gaston Caperton was governor and I had a brief stint covering the statehouse.

I noted earlier the wave of stories spurred by Byrd's age. I should also note that his age was an issue before voters re-elected him to a record ninth term last year with 64 percent of the vote.

The first TV ad anywhere during the 2006 election cycle was an anti-Byrd spot from the Republican National Senatorial Committee, in an apparent effort to shake Byrd's resolve to run. His GOP opponent, John Raese, also played the age card by seizing on a radio interview Byrd did during the campaign.