19 September 2008

Election 2008: Congress

  • Politico marked the debut of a new television ad by Democrat Anne Barth, in which she enlists her former boss, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, to aid her challenge of Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd. "Byrd doesn't say much, but he offers an endorsement, a powerful message from the longest-serving senator in U.S. history and one of the most recognized figures in his home state," the article notes.
  • But political analyst Stuart Rothenberg includes the Barth-Capito race among several in which the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee "is running a risk by promoting some candidates who have little or no chance to win in the fall, and by lumping together very strong contenders with second-tier campaigns." Rothenberg calls Capito "wildly popular," and refers to an as-yet-unseen polling he says shows she "holds better than a 2-1 lead over Barth. And to no one’s surprise, McCain is clobbering Obama in the district."
  • Barth is expecting a boost next week when House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., visits Martinsburg to stump with her, The Associated Press reports.

18 September 2008

Crime in West Virginia

The latest FBI figures suggest West Virginia has the nation's 14th lowest crime rate, but "19 of the state's municipalities have violent crime rates higher than the national averages for cities and towns their size," the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington reports.

Charleston topped that list of 19. "Charleston's mark and Huntington's rate of 754.07 (per 100,000 inhabitants) surpassed the crime rates of Louisville, Ky., Los Angeles and New York City," the article said.

Local and state officials responded to the newspaper about the statistics.

Statue Approved to Honor W.Va. Women Veterans

Nearly a decade after sculptor P. Joseph Mullins was commissioned to craft the monument, the third committee to be involved in the process has approved both the design and a Capitol siting for a female veterans' memorial, The Associated Press reports.

AP notes that "the project has been held up by criticism that the statue was too masculine and should be wearing a skirt instead of fatigue pants and a T-shirt," but that at Wednesday's committee meeting, "Mullins explained the thinking behind the design."

This latest committee, featuring women who range from World War II veterans to active service members heading to Iraq, will now weigh in one some of the statute's finer details and help find it a specific spot on the Capitol campus, state officials said.

MetroNews also has an item.

Election 2008: Governor (Corrected)

  • Manchin's unsuccessful challenger in their party's primary, Delegate Mel Kessler of Raleigh County, has followed through on his pledge to support the Republican by starting "Democrats for Weeks," The Register-Herald of Beckley reports. "Kessler said he is attempting to attract the 90,000 Democrats who voted for him in the primary," the article said. (Correction: Kessler was about right with his figure; the previously posted certified results contained a typo, and undercounted his Kanawha County tally by 10,000 votes. The corrected figures make that county Kessler's best showing, more than double what he received in his native Raleigh.)

17 September 2008

ARG: McCain 49%, Obama 45% in W.Va.

American Research Group surveyed 600 likely voters on Sept. 14-16. The results have a 4 percentage point margin of error.

Among the key findings: 31% of Democrats said they would vote for McCain, while only 9% of Republicans would cross over to support Obama. But Obama had 53% of independents, to McCain's 39%.

Overall undecideds totaled 7%.

Election 2008 Roundup

  • As he runs for a fifth term, "Attorney General Darrell McGraw plans to explain the differences in fuel prices to the Raleigh County Commission on Aging" on Sept. 25, in response to the perception of disparate treatment in that region, The Register-Herald of Beckley reports.
  • The Charleston Gazette hears from the Democratic nominees for Kanawha County's two state Senate seats up this year, Sen. Dan Foster (corrected. D'oh.) and Delegate Corey Palumbo.
  • WSAZ-TV continues its coverage of a 911 call from the home of Huntington Mayor David Felinton, a Democrat seeking re-election this year. Public Broadcasting also has a piece, with audio.

McCain Endorses End to Mountaintop Removal Mining (Updated)

The Charleston Gazette cites (and posts) video from a recent campaign stop by John McCain in Florida to report that the GOP presidential nominee said "I do" when asked whether he supports "eliminating mountaintop removal mining and the practices like that."

"McCain went on to say that he's 'seen a dramatic improvement in the behavior of the coal companies,'" the article also said.

Update: Public Broadcasting has a story, with audio. It also reports that "Now, his campaign won’t say whether McCain stands by his statement supporting an end to that controversial mining practice."

"McCain’s stance on mountaintop removal mining has been a mystery for most of this campaign," that report said. Ditto that of Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama: "Tuesday, a woman at the Obama headquarters in Charleston declined to say what his position is on the practice."

Update II: The Gazette expands its article, and reports that a McCain spokeswoman "confirmed McCain's support for ending the practice" while also touting his support "of coal and that clean coal is a vital part of his energy policy."

An Obama spokesman told The Gazette that "the Illinois senator has said publicly that he does not support mountaintop removal," adding that he "comes from a coal state and understands its importance to our economy."

Update III: U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, tells MetroNews that McCain's response "caught me off guard," and said "such a stance could hurt McCain in West Virginia."

Quote of the Day

"(A) judicial officer should be subject to FOIA as a 'state officer' and member of a 'public body.'"

-- Kanawha Circuit Judge Louis "Duke" Bloom, largely ruling in favor of The Associated Press as it appealed the state Supreme Court's denial of Freedom of Information Act requests made in the wake of the Monaco photos scandal.

They Voted For You: Energy (Updated)

U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, and Nick Rahall, D-3rd, helped pass the "Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act" late Tuesday.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, opposed the measure, which prevailed 236-189 on a largely party-line vote.

Among other provisions, the bill would "open waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to oil and gas drilling but only 50 or more miles out to sea and only if a state agrees to energy development off its shore," The Associated Press reports.

"Republicans called the drilling measure a ruse to provide political cover to Democrats feeling pressure to support more drilling at a time of high gas prices," AP said.

The legislation also includes "tax credits for wind and solar energy industries," alternative source requirements for utilities, and a gradual rollback of $18 billion worth of tax breaks for the five largest oil companies, the article said.

It also contains a gift ban and ethical rules in response "to a recent sex and drug scandal involving the federal office that oversees the offshore oil royalty program,"AP reports, and would "require energy companies to pay billions of dollars in royalties they avoided because of an Interior Department contracting error."

Capito had been part of an informal, bipartisan working group that worked over the summer on energy legislation. She joined all but one of its identified Republicans to vote against Tuesday's bill.

That member, Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., voted with all but one of the group's identified Democrats in favor of the bill, including co-chairman Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii. The remaining Democrat, Rep. Nick Lampson of Texas, did not vote.

Capito called the bill "misguided" and a "partisan ploy" in a press release. Her Democratic challenger, Anne Barth, alleged that Capito had sided with "Big Oil" and "against lowering gas prices and against West Virginia coal."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued a similar attack.

Update: MetroNews Talkine asks Capito and Rahall about the bill and Tuesday's vote. With audio.

16 September 2008

Tuesday Election Roundup

  • U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, and Democratic challenger Anne Barth appeared before the Charleston Daily Mail's editorial board.
  • Agricultural Commissioner Gus Douglass and Mike Teets, the Republican nominee, also met at The Gazette's offices.

15 September 2008

Election 2008 Roundup

  • The Associated Press reports on the reticent approach to public debates displayed by some candidates this year, particularly incumbents.
  • Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine will headline this year's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, held by the state Democratic Party and slated for Saturday in Charleston. AP has details, while The Charleston Gazette noted earlier that the Democrats had tried to land Barack Obama or Joe Biden. (Gov. Joe Manchin told AP earlier that he had gotten Kaine to commit to speaking while he was on Obama's VP short list. Obama spoke at the 2006 dinner, while former President Bill Clinton headlined it last year.)
  • The Gazette scrutinizes polling in the state Supreme Court race, with a noted national political analyst questioning one recent survey.

Gambling in West Virginia: Kanawha County

The Charleston Gazette takes another look at allegations that Kanawha County's indoor smoking ban has hurt video lottery revenues at participating bars and clubs.

Lottery Commission figures show a countywide dip in activity in June and July but a gradual rise since then. "That seems to suggest that Kanawha County will follow the pattern of other localities across the country that have enacted smoking bans - after an initial drop-off, business rebounds, and frequently goes on to exceed pre-smoking ban levels as the businesses attract more customers from the non-smoking majority," the article said.

Lottery officials also question the role high gas prices may have played in the early summer decline.

W.Va.'s New Approach to Medicaid Remains Under Fire

Health care providers in southern West Virginia are adding to the concerns voiced earlier over West Virginia's federally approved plan for revamping its Medicaid insurance program for the poor and disabled, The Register-Herald reports.

“Medicaid managed care and the new Medicaid redesign are a hindrance to the stability of persons with chronic mental illness,” Mike Mays, CEO of regional behavioral health provider FMRS Health Systems Inc. told the newspaper.

The Beckley newspaper also has a separate article in which legislative leaders weigh in.

“For some reason, that has become an extremely bitter battle between the providers and the department,” said House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne.