07 December 2007

W.Va. GOP Convention: A Final Tally* - Updated

Today's roster lists 1,556 names, including 963 party members who filed for 610 at-large seats.

A net number of 1,203 delegates registered in time, putting the GOP within 250 names of its goal of filling 1,446 seats at the Feb. 5 presidential convention. January voting will whittle down the excess at-large filings.

Among the highlights from the final roster:


  • Most legislator-delegates: Fred Thompson (12);
  • Most state executive committee delegates: Mitt Romney (18);
  • Most "guaranteed" at-large delegates: Ron Paul (42);
  • Most non-chair county committee delegates: Romney (53).


  • All but McDowell are sending delegates to the convention*;
  • Nine filled their automatic berths -- Barbour, Clay, Fayette, Hancock, Harrison, Summers, Tyler, Wirt, and Wood;
  • Four appear to have more county executive committee delegates than allotted spots: Berkeley, Hampshire, Nicholas and Raleigh;
  • Nicholas also appears to have more than its allotted share of state executive committee delegates;
  • 36 filled or exceeded their at-large delegate slots;
  • Besides McDowell, only Wyoming has no at-large delegates while Brooke and Calhoun also have no state or county committee members registered.
* County party committee chairs can fill vacancies, as can the state chairman after that. Organizers are also checking the roster for errors.

They Voted For You: Energy

U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, and Nick Rahall, D-3rd, voted for the Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act late Thursday.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, opposed the bill, which passed 235-181. Seven Democrats voted with her, while 14 GOP members crossed party lines to support the measure.

The Associated Press described the bill as "a $21 billion tax package, much of it new taxes on oil companies," which would earmark the resulting revenue "for tax incentives for development of renewable energy sources like ethanol from grasses and wood chips and biodiesel and for energy efficiency programs and conservation."

But the centerpiece of the bill," the AP continues, "is a requirement to boost automobile fuel economy by 40 percent to an industry average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, the first such action since 1975."

And, besides a chilly reception expected in the Senate, AP reports that "
White House Press Secretary Dana Perino called the House-passed bill 'misguided' and unacceptable, and said President Bush would veto it if the bill is not changed."

House passage of the bill follows the 11-state Energy Summit hosted by Gov. Joe Manchin in West Virginia. Manchin and other governors from energy-producing states knocked Congress for failing to move on a comprehensive energy bill -- and one that embraced the coal they provide in abundance to the nation's power plants.

Update: Public Broadcasting examines coal's role in future policy on its weekly Outlook program (airs again Sunday). The segment featured a discussion with
Roger Lilly, marketing manager for Walker Machinery, and Allan Tweddle, an environmentalist and member of the state Public Energy Authority.

Update II: The Campaign to Defend America has already launched robo-calls in the 2nd District targeting "Congresswoman Shelley Capito." Alleging she "has supported the greedy energy policies of Big Oil, George Bush and Dick Cheney," the automated calls also toss in a reference to Iraq and "preparation to bomb Iran."

Capito Quits Page Board, Vents

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd., has resigned from House Page Board, via a letter that laments that "the problems with communication between board members that plagued the program in the past have only continued under new House leadership."

The Associated Press has the details. Capito referred to the situation last year, when "page board members said they weren't informed of sexual come-ons to former male pages by ex-Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla.," the article said.

A second Republican, Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida, also quit the board Thursday. Reproaching the House's Democratic leaders for not learning the lessons of the Foley scandal, which happened during the GOP's watch, "The Florida congresswoman said four pages have been dismissed this year 'for serious criminal acts and for inappropriate sexual indiscretions,'" AP reported.

"A House Republican official said the criminal activity involved shoplifting. The official could not be quoted by name because he wasn't authorized to comment on the issue," the article said.

MetroNews also has an item on Capito's departure from the board.

They Voted For You: AMT

U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., voted for legislation Thursday that would temporarily limit the reach of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

The Temporary Tax Relief Act of 2007 passed 88-5. But as The Associated Press reports, that bill is at odd with "House passed legislation matching the AMT fix and other tax cuts with about $80 billion in new tax revenues."

Earlier Thursday, Senate Republicans united in stopping the Senate from moving to the House-passed bill. The vote was 48-46 against beginning debate on the House bill, 14 short of the 60 needed," the article said.

"The Finance Committee's top Republican, Charles Grassley of Iowa, said it was time for Democrats to abandon their 'PayGo obsession,' referring to the 'pay-as-you-go' principle that tax cuts or spending increases should be paid for so as not to add to the federal deficit."

But with the Senate legislation heading to the House, AP reports that "
House Democratic leaders throughout the day Thursday reaffirmed their commitment to PayGo."

06 December 2007

W.Va. GOP Exceeds Convention Delegate Target

At least for total filings: 1,478 as of the latest list posted online.

But a whopping 915 of those filings are from party members seeking the 610 at-large seats at the Feb. 5 presidential convention. The number of registered delegates assured a spot at the "Tsunami Tuesday" event is 1,173.

(Update: Though the total number of registered delegates increased since the previous posting, the number of delegates Rudy Giuliani can count on actually declined because of the influx 0f would-be at-large delegates. This increase particularly affected the number of uncommitted delegates who have no competition for their seats. Twenty-nine counties now have more at-large filings than available seats.)

The convention plan envisions 1,446 delegates. The difference appears to be more than 200 officials from the various county party committees who were guaranteed berths but who failed to register (the deadline was Nov. 30, but the updates released since then reflect the large volume of mailed-in filings that had been postmarked in time).

More than 40 state party officials also failed to claim their seats, as did three legislators. Several lawmakers actually also hold state or county committee posts, and so have multiple seats but can only fill one.

Mezz Wants Back in the Mix

Disgraced former House Education Chairman Jerry Mezzatesta, D-Hampshire, wants his old job back as a "community specialist" for the county's school system, The Charleston Gazette reports.

Mezzatesta also seeks back pay from the $60,000-a-year post as he appeals a ruling that upheld his 2005 firing, the article said.

Mezzatesta had come under scrutiny before his downfall over whether he had used his powerful legislative post to benefit his employer, Hampshire County schools. He had previously promised the state Ethics Commission he would not.

But it was his attempts to conceal his deeds that proved his undoing, as the Gazette documented in its comprehensive series, Web of Deceit.

Mezzatesta pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor stemming from the cover-up, but was found not guilty by a federal jury earlier this year on fraud and related conspiracy charges.

Mezzatesta once described himself as "hummingbird on amphetamines" to The Associated Press. That only partly explains this line from the Gazette article: "Hampshire County Circuit Judge Donald Cookman recused himself from the case following an altercation with Mezzatesta and asked the state Supreme Court of Appeals to appoint a special judge."

Manchin to Chair Dem Govs in '08

Gov. Joe Manchin will lead the 28-state Democratic Governors Association next year, succeeding Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as chair. she announced in a release.

Manchin's goals for his term include "expanding the majority of Democratic governors by at least one – by winning states like Missouri and Indiana, who have vulnerable Republican incumbents."

Manchin also pledged "to help re-elect all Democratic incumbents running (in New Hampshire, Montana, Washington, and West Virginia) and to retain the two Democratic open seats (in Delaware and North Carolina)." He further vowed to set a new fundraising record for the group.

(The DGA web site also includes a video clip of Manchin talking about "supporting men and women in uniform.")

05 December 2007

GOP Convention Delegate Count Reaches 1,364 - UPDATED

Organizers of the state Republican Party's Feb. 5 "Super-Duper Tuesday" presidential convention are closing in on the magic number of 1,446 delegates, after processing mailed-in delegate registrations postmarked by last week's deadline.

More than 62 percent of the filings, or 852 of the total, are for at-large slots scattered among the counties. However, as there are only 610 at-large seats, the number of delegates assured a seat at the convention is 1,122.

And with more mailings still to go through, the latest breakdown shows:

(Update I: The right-hand column reflects delegates with automatic berths and those who filed for as-yet-uncontested at-large seats.)

(Update II: I've tweaked the "Minimum" column by adding at-large seats in contested counties where the candidate has sufficient would-be delegates.)

Among other points of interest:

  • 24 of the state's 55 counties have enough at-large delegate filings to ensure contested races for those slots during January's online and county convention voting;
  • Kanawha County has 151 filings for 51 at-large seats, the largest contested field;
  • Other counties with at least twice as many filings as at-large seats are Boone, Brooke, Cabell, Fayette, Harrison, Monongalia, Putnam and Raleigh;
  • Only Boone County has more would-be at-large delegates for a single candidate - Ron Paul - than there are seats;
  • In two other counties, Fayette and Randolph, are there more uncommitted at-large delegate candidates than seats;
  • Ron Paul has the most at-large delegates (170);
  • Mitt Romney has the most delegates from the state party's Executive Committee (15);
  • Romney also has at least 9 county party chairs in his corner;
  • Fred Thompson has the most legislator-delegates (12).

W.Va. Think Tank Debuts

A new group backed by some familiar names hopes to become a go-to source for research on tax legislation and other budgetary proposals.

The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy describes itself as "nonpartisan, nonprofit, statewide budget and policy research organization" that "focuses on how policy decisions affect all West Virginians, including low- and moderate-income families, other vulnerable populations, and the important community programs that serve them."

The Mountain State has at least one other independent think tank devoted to such issues: the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia
. Also a nonprofit, "the Foundation's mission is to advance sound policies based on the principles of free enterprise, individual liberty, limited government, and traditional American values."

04 December 2007

Liveblogging from the W.Va. Energy Summit

Gov. Joe Manchin is hosting officials from industry and 10 other states at Stonewall Resort today for a daylong summit on U.S. energy policy, "Advancing Domestic Resources in an Era of Carbon Challenges."

Participants include: Gov. Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming, the nation's leading coal producer and one of its major sources of natural gas; Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, whose state mines coal and is also a top provider of hydroelectic power; and Gov.-elect Steve Beshear of eastern coal producer Kentucky.

As The Associated Press reports, a central theme of the summit is that "as long as coal remains this country's most abundant fossil fuel, it must play a central role in U.S. policy."

To varying degrees, speakers have acknowledged the case against coal: the carbon dioxide emitted when it is burned, the toll of mountaintop removal mining. But the goal of the summit is to confront those concerns, rally coal's supporters and win over Congress.

To achieve that, several presentations have outlined ways to reduce pollution from coal, such as carbon sequestration and coal gasification. "But speakers were also candid about the costs, technological hurdles and environmental shortcomings of these options," the AP article said.

Speakers include officials from American Electric Power, the National Energy Technology Laboratory, AIG, the Southern States Energy Board and CNX Gas Corp.

Update: Others with coverage include Public Broadcasting, MetroNews (with audio) and The Charleston Gazette.

Agency Rapped over Mansion Project

The Manchin administration has knocked down part of an exterior wall of the Governor's Mansion, installing doors in its place.

Whether a major or minor alteration to the historic state-owned building, the Ethics Commission has called out the state Capitol Building Commission for failing to notify the public of the meeting where it was approved, The Charleston Gazette reports.

"The doors are intended to provide easier access to a large frame party tent that has been erected adjacent to the mansion for a series of holiday parties to be hosted by the governor and first lady, beginning Thursday," the article said.

Ex-Senator Writes Political Tell-All

Russ Weeks has a lot to say about his stint in the West Virginia Senate.

The Raleigh County Republican recently talked to The Register-Herald 0f Beckley about his new self-published book, No Strings Attached: The Big Lies of West Virginia Government and One Man's Fight for the Truth.

Right now, we have a two-tiered justice system in this state. One is for the ‘good ol’ boys, and one is for the not-so-good ol’ boys," Weeks told the newspaper, while also alleging that "there are just a handful of people controlling everything that’s going on."

Weeks alleges shady dealings on several specific bills during his four sessions in the Senate. He also recounts his ongoing feud with state officials over conditions at Pinecrest Hospital.

And Weeks faults Gov. Joe Manchin over his handling of the mine rescue legislation that sped through the Legislature following the Sago and Aracoma mining tragedies.

Weeks writes in his book the governor made sure no one stood in his way, even going inside a closed-door GOP caucus in the House," the article said. "Nor would Manchin allow any tampering with his bill that altered the requirements to serve as mine health and safety director so his intended appointee could take the job, Weeks recalled."

03 December 2007

W.Va. GOP Convention Hits Delegate Deadline

With an unknown number of filings likely still in the mail, state Republican Party officials are counting 1,175 delegates signed up for the "Tsunami Tuesday" Presidential Convention Feb. 5.

The latest breakdown*:

The deadline was Friday, though filings postmarked by midnight Nov. 30 will be counted. The convention envisions 1,446 delegates.

The latest roster is online.

The Associated Press has details. Among some of the highlights:

  • Convention planners set aside 610 seats for at-large delegates, but 707 signed up. As a result, 16 counties have enough candidates for contests during the election slated for January;
  • Only four counties failed to field any delegates - McDowell, Mingo, Tyler and Wyoming counties. Though the others are dominated by Democrats, Tyler is actually one of nine W.Va. counties where registered Republicans hold the majority;
  • All but four of the Legislature's 39 GOP members signed up for their automatic convention berths: Troy Andes of Putnam County, Allen Evans of Grant County, Mike Porter of Mercer County and Roger Romine of Tyler County;
  • The uncommitted delegates account for about 45 percent of the total;
  • Mike Huckabee perhaps saw the biggest boost among the White House hopefuls during the final surge of filings, with 113 at-large delegates now pledged to him;
  • Ron Paul continues to have the most at-large delegates, with 125;
(* I missed a name among the Romney delegates in my initial post. I've corrected the above roster and his number of state party committee members.)

Battle Brewing Over Workers' Comp

The ongoing plan to privatize workers' compensation in West Virginia became a top topic during last week's legislative interim meeting.

Several lawmakers grilled Manchin administration officials at a committee meeting, alleging the privatized insurance system for on-the-job injuries and illnesses had strayed from established policy and state law with some recent changes to benefits and the like.

As The Associated Press reports, Manchin officials say they fear the push for increased legislative oversight comes at a terrible time: other insurers are slated to begin competing for a share of this market on July. But lawmakers say the dispute instead has to do with the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches.

Danger in the Mines

High oil prices have proved a boon for the coal industry, both in West Virginia and the nation, as operators have revived idled mines and added workers to boost production over the last several years.

But federal mine regulators actually cut their number of inspectors during that time by 18 percent, or double the rate a which mining operations increased nationwide, The Charleston Gazette reports.

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration "not only missed required inspections, but they misled agency managers — and the public — about inspection completion rates," the article said.

The Gazette also draws from an U.S. Labor Department audit of the agency that shows "the lapses were most serious in Southern West Virginia, where 85 percent of the missed inspections occurred."