02 May 2008

Election 2008: Gas Prices

As The Associated Press reports, "soaring gasoline prices are suddenly the nation's No. 1 crisis, and all the presidential candidates are offering cures." And with its May 13 approaching, West Virginia is seeing at least two of the candidates bringing up that issue in the state.

AP reports that on the campaign trail, "The slew of proposals includes: a summertime suspension of federal gas taxes, backed by John McCain and Hillary Clinton; a windfall-profits tax on oil companies, supported by Clinton, Obama and many other Democrats; a cry for new refineries, nuclear power plants and drilling in the Alaskan wilderness, sounded by President Bush and his GOP allies; calls by those in both parties to stop buying oil at $117 a barrel - only to pump it back into the ground for strategic reserves."

The Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail both touch on the gas price issue in their coverage. The latter observes that Barack Obama has "aired a statewide commercial attacking the oil industry for sky-high gas prices and pushing for alternative energy solutions and 'green' jobs creation."

Obama supporter and U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., meanwhile, has proposed what The Register-Herald of Beckley calls "monthly handouts of $100 to $165 for low-income motorists strapped to buy gas in a time of soaring prices." MetroNews also reports on Rockefeller's "low-Income Gas Assistance Act."

Clinton vs. Obama in W.Va.

Public Broadcasting and the Charleston Daily Mail are among the latest with takes as the primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama takes shape in the Mountain State.

The Daily Mail reports that the Obama camp is "hitting on all cylinders in the state with TV spots and automated telephone messages," with the latter narrated by U.S. Rep Nick Rahall, D-3rd.

As for the Clinton camp, "former President Bill Clinton stopped in Morgantown and Clarksburg in support of his wife while touting her desire to provide immediate relief at the gas pumps," the article said. It adds that "both campaigns have opened up a slew of offices around the state."

Offering both audio and a transcript, Public Broadcasting interviews voters in Man, Logan County. Its conclusions: "Hillary Clinton has nothing to worry about this primary season," and "(John) McCain can expect to poach more than a few local Democratic votes come November, particularly if Obama is the nominee."

Public Broadcasting also has a report and audio from the former president's West Virginia visits.

The Charleston Gazette, meanwhile, focuses on Obama's endorsement from state Auditor Glen Gainer.

01 May 2008

DaughterGate Update (Updated)

  • The Daily Athenaeum reports that "'concerned students' are scattering posters throughout the campus and demanding that President Michael Garrison and BOG Chairman Steve Goodwin step down from their positions."
  • The WVU student-run newspaper also finds that "calls from faculty for the censure or resignation of West Virginia University President Michael S. Garrison continued on Wednesday."
  • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that "the university can provide no records of phone calls Mr. Garrison made during the critical five-day period when WVU decided to award the governor's daughter a degree she did not earn." While "no long-distance calls were made using the identification number assigned to Mr. Garrison by the university," WVU's "cell phone provider has been unable to produce a copy of Mr. Garrison's cellular records," the article said, quoting a WVU lawyer.
  • Garrison tells The Associated Press that "while still insisting he did not pressure anyone to award the governor's daughter a master's degree she didn't deserve," he "does wish he'd handled the matter differently."
  • Gov. Joe Manchin tells AP, MetroNews and The Charleston Gazette that "he does not believe Garrison should be pressured to step down," adding to AP that "You cannot go on a witch hunt."
  • (Update) AP has posted the various scandal-related resolutions pending before WVU's Faculty Senate.

Election 2008 Roundup (Updated)

  • The Intelligencer profiles the Democratic side of the race to succeed state Sen. Andy McKenzie, R-Ohio.
  • The Wheeling newspaper also looks at the four Democratic candidates for state Supreme Court.
  • (Update): The Charleston Daily Mail highlights a much-decorated Iraq war veteran now running for the House of Delegates out of Mason County.
  • (Update): The Daily Mail also focuses on Delegate Mel Kessler of Raleigh County, Gov. Joe Manchin's opponent in the Democratic primary.

Mountaineers Buckling Up

Though West Virginia doesn't ticket motorists solely for failing to wear their seat belts, the Mountain State's compliance rate is such that it qualifies for $5 million in federal safety grants, MetroNews reports.

"West Virginia's seat belt usage rate is near 90-percent for the past two years," MetroNews explains. "The other states meeting the qualifications for buckling up are Georgia, Utah, Pennsylvania, and Nevada."

MetroNews also has audio from a deputy U.S. Transportation secretary, while The Charleston Gazette has an article as well.

Supporters Worried About TDC-TRS Transfers

The Charleston Gazette reports that "heads of two state teacher and school employee groups sent a letter to Gov. Joe Manchin Wednesday asking him to extend the deadline for about 19,000 teachers in one retirement plan to decide whether to switch to another plan."

The West Virginia Federation of Teachers and the allied state School Service Personnel Association argue they "need additional time to counter confusion and misinformation about the transfer election," the article said.

A Manchin spokeswoman told The Gazette that "changing the deadline could only be done through a special session of the Legislature."

The more than 19,000 enrollees in the Teachers' Defined Contribution plan have until May 12 to decide whether to transfer. But for any transfers to take effect, at least 12,343 must make that choice.

As of Friday, 1,530 had elected to transfer, according to the program's Web site. The transfer plan envisions May 5 as a major event, with enrollees able to drop off their transfer forms at their schools.

Early Voting In W.Va.

West Virginia completed its opening week of early voting with nearly 18,400 ballots cast, The Associated Press reports.

About 72 percent of the voters have been Democrats, according to the figures culled by the secretary of state's office from 51 of 55 counties.

The 2008 primary marks the first time that unaffiliated voters can cast ballots in either the Democratic or Republican Party. But to avoid swaying these voters over which ballot to choose, poll workers aren't allowed to remind them of that option. They must instead request a partisan ballot, or with otherwise be given a nonpartisan one.

As a result, Public Broadcasting reports, "At least two Barack Obama supporters found out too late they can’t vote in the Democratic primary however – because they didn’t ask for the right type of ballot." (Audio here.)

The Charleston Gazette is also reminding independent and nonpartisan voters that they must request
Democratic, Republican or Mountain Party ballots.

AP found that by Wednesday, "only 5.8 percent of all early ballots cast have been from unaffiliated or independent voters." As for unaffiliated voters casting the "wrong" ballot, AP reports that "clerks in the state's five largest counties - Kanawha, Berkeley, Cabell, Wood and Raleigh - report no or very few such complaints."

"These counties are also reporting just a handful of nonpartisan ballots," the article said. "Berkeley County has collected two out of more than 600 votes cast, for instance, while Raleigh County has had 10 out of nearly 500 early ballots."

AP Sues W.Va. Supreme Court Over FOIA

The Associated Press reports that it has filed its previously announced legal challenge over the state Supreme Court's denial of Freedom of Information Act requests.

"The AP alleges the court erred when it concluded earlier this year that records maintained by Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard were not subject to FOIA," the article said. "The AP filed FOIA requests in January seeking any communication between Maynard and Massey Energy chief Don Blankenship."

The Supreme Court administrator, named in the Kanawha Circuit Court action, responded with a press release.

Among other grounds, the AP's challenge focuses on language in FOIA that says that "'Public body' means every state officer, agency, department, including the executive, legislative and judicial departments, division, bureau, board and commission."

Update: The Bluefield Daily-Telegraph quizzed Maynard and the other Supreme Court hopefuls on the topic. "The overall consensus by the candidates: Yes, the e-mails do fall under the state’s Freedom of Information Act, except for those that would fall within the realm of normal statutory exceptions," the newspaper reported.

30 April 2008

More Fallout From DaughterGate

  • The Charleston Daily Mail reports that "several donors have either reneged on pledges or vowed not to contribute to West Virginia University because of the debacle over Heather Bresch's degree," with one foundation "revoking an offer to donate $1 million worth of art and another $1 million contribution to the university's Creative Arts Center."
  • Gov. Joe Manchin continues to face questions about the scandal, as MetroNews reports (audio here).
  • The Daily Mail also reports that "Rich Rodriguez's lawyer believes the ongoing degree flap at West Virginia University has given the coach ammunition to attack the credibility of WVU President Mike Garrison."

Election 2008 Shorts

  • The Intelligencer of Wheeling profiles the three Democratic candidates for secretary of state.
  • The Associated Press talks to Sheirl Fletcher, the Democratic primary challenger to U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller.
  • The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington and The Intelligencer are among those following up on AP's earlier analysis of the latest voter registration figures and initial early voting tallies.
  • The Register-Herald of Beckley seeks local partisan reaction to a Democratic National Committee ad targeting presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain. FactCheck.org, meanwhile, has faulted the Iraq-related TV spot for lacking context.

29 April 2008

DaughterGate Update

The Associated Press reports on Monday's statement by WVU's Board of Governors in support of embattled President Mike Garrison, while also covering the afternoon's Faculty Senate Executive Committee meeting.

MetroNews also has an update, along with a copy of the board's statement and several video clips from the meeting and an afternoon press conference.

Others following up include Public Broadcasting (with audio), The Charleston Gazette, the Charleston Daily Mail and The Daily Athenaeum.

Update: MetroNews' Talkline hears from Peter Kalis, a former Rhodes Scholar, WVU alumnus and chairman of a global law firm, who "says WVU President Mike Garrison should be fired over the Heather Bresch degree controversy." With audio.

The Daily Mail, meanwhile, reports that "c
riminal charges could be on the table for any West Virginia University officials involved in altering records to show that Gov. Joe Manchin's daughter earned grades for classes she never completed."

Update II: AP, MetroNews, Public Broadcasting and The Gazette are among those reporting that Provost Gerald Lang and business school Dean R. Stephen Sears will remain faculty with six-figure salaries though they are resigning their leadership posts.

Capito Talks Health Care At Forum

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, was one of several members of Congress that debated health care policy at Cincinnati Children Hospital.

Covering the televised forum, WKRC-TV said that with four Democrats and four Republicans, the panel featured "huge partisan divides. Progress will likely have to be in small steps."

The station also offers video, and says C-SPAN will air the debate.

Bill Clinton Returning to W.Va.

With the Democratic candidates focused on Indiana and North Carolina, the former president has slated a Thursday visit to the Mountain State on behalf of his wife's campaign.

The Associated Press has an item, as does MetroNews.

As Obama and Clinton gear up their efforts in the state, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., has told the two campaigns that "We don’t want negative campaigning or mudslinging to dominate the debate here," The Register-Herald of Beckley reports.

28 April 2008

Election 2008 Shorts

  • Gov. Joe Manchin told an Eastern Panhandle audience late last week that "he will not endorse either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee before West Virginia's primary election, which is less than three weeks away," the Herald-Mail of Hagerstown (Md.) reports. With video.
  • The Associated Press reports that a record number of voters have registered in advance of the May 13 primary, offering details from the numbers.
  • I either missed this or have since forgotten about it, but Survey USA polled 617 West Virginians in February about potential presidential match-ups. The results, admittedly dated, had Clinton beating McCain, 47% to 42%, but not outside the margin of error. It also had McCain trouncing Obama, 53% to 35%. The survey breaks down responses by party, ideology, gender, age, region, race and income.

Lang, Sears Resigning Amid DaughterGate Scandal (Updated)

The Associated Press is among those reporting Sunday's announced resignation of WVU Provost Gerald Lang, while noting that "there could be more ahead."

"The Faculty Senate Executive Committee is scheduled to discuss the (Heather) Bresch affair Monday," the article said. "On May 12, some professors have said they'll bring a motion before the senate calling for a vote of no confidence in WVU President Mike Garrison, a friend of Bresch who has denied applying any pressure to get her degree awarded."

Update: AP has WVU College of Business and Economics Dean R. Stephen Sears also resigning. So does MetroNews and the Charleston Daily Mail.

The chairman of WVU's Faculty Senate, meanwhile, spoke both to AP and MetroNews' Talkline (the latter offering audio).

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on the Lang and Sear departures, while fielding calls for further resignations and echoing such in an editorial.

The Daily Athenaeum also collects resignation calls, while also noting comments responding to Garrison's post on the subject on his official blog.

Update II: WVU's Faculty Senate offers links to the report, appendices and "meeting notes from the independent interviews."

The Charleston Gazette earlier delved into the he-said, she-said that lies beneath last week's report.

Public Broadcasting reports on Lang's departure while offering its recent interview with him. With audio.

MetroNews has the resignation along with a report of the "no confidence" movement among faculty. Talkline host Hoppy Kercheval, meanwhile, opines that "Garrison is in deep trouble because of the Heather Bresch scandal, trouble his young administration may not be able to survive."

Remembering Willow Island

The Charleston Gazette marks the 30th anniversary of the Willow Island disaster, when 51 workers plunged to their deaths in what is "still considered the worst construction accident in U.S. history."

The series includes interviews with the kin of those killed, a photo slide show with audio and a list of the dead.