14 November 2008

U.S. Supreme Court Accepts Caperton v. Massey for Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court voted Friday "to review the actions of a West Virginia Supreme Court justice whose vote overturned a $50 million verdict against a company that is run by the most generous backer of his election," The Associated Press reports.

AP explains that "Don Blankenship, the chief executive of Massey Energy Co., spent more than $3 million to help elect Justice Brent Benjamin to the West Virginia high court. Benjamin twice was part of 3-2 majorities that threw out a verdict in favor of Harman Mining Co. in its coal contract dispute with Massey."

The nation's highest court agreed to take the case after such groups as the American Bar Association filed briefs supporting the appeal. It also attracted an editorial from The New York Times.

Update: The justices voted as a Logan County civil trial continues in the lawsuit filed by survivors of two miners killed in a 2006 fire at a Massey subsidiary. AP and The Charleston Gazette are among those covering the wrongful death case, which includes Blankenship as a co-defendant.

W.Va. Weighing Another County School Takeover

A "laundry list of problems" revealed by a 151-page audit report of Randolph County schools has state education officials eyeing a takeover, the Charleston Daily Mail reports.

"The cited problems include the county's decision to keep several hundred thousand dollars in an uninsured account, its persistently low test scores, its non-compliant hiring practices and a school board president attempting to micromanage the system," the article said.

County officials are resisting the possible move, and questioning some of the audit's findings.

Quote of the Day

"I understand why people pay attention to me on this issue, and that's why I want to be a spokesman about it."

-- former state Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, to The Associated Press' Tom Breen about how his 2003 DUI arrest and underlying alcohol problem has prompted him to pursue "legislation aimed at helping addicts overcome their dependencies."

Voters returned Snyder to the Senate on Nov. 4, according to unofficial results. "As of Thursday, Snyder had a lead of 228 out of more than 53,000 cast, and the number of late absentee and provisional ballots left make it likely he'll be the eventual winner," the AP article notes.

Post-Election Brings Hint of GOP Statehouse Power Struggle

MetroNews reports that "Republican House of Delegates member Craig Blair (Berkeley) says he intends to challenge Delegate Tim Armstead of Kanawha County for the position of House Minority Leader."

The House's 28 Republicans (they will gain a seat in 2009) will caucus on Dec. 7. "
Blair and Armstead have talked, and Armstead has come away hopeful Blair's issues can be addressed without an actual challenge," the MetroNews item said.

The Associated Press reported earlier on the largely tough results suffered by West Virginia's GOP for the second consecutive general election. Both Public Broadcasting (with audio) and the Charleston Daily Mail have also explored the topic. Update: so has The Intelligencer of Wheeling.

One other potential power play may also arise before the 79th Legislature convenes next year. Stay tuned.

13 November 2008

Greenbrier Ballot Canvass Leaves Results Unchanged

The Register-Herald of Beckley updates on the ballot miscount in Greenbrier County and puts the number of untallied votes at 411.

But adding those ballots to the total did not change the winners in three close races.

Republican Jim Childers increased his lead from 280 to 299 votes over Democrat Bruce Hosey in the contest for sheriff. "A special casino vote also saw slight increase in 'yes' votes, while the $40 million school bond issue saw an increase of 101 'yes' votes," the article said. "The school bond passed by only 88 votes on election night."

"By mid-afternoon, school officials calculated that it was mathematically impossible for the bond to be defeated due to the remaining number of challenged ballots left to be counted," the article also said.

12 November 2008

Ballot Miscount Could Upend Greenbrier Results

Greenbrier County officials left 340 ballots uncounted on Election Day, and when combined with 167 provisional ballots throw several races into uncertainty, The Associated Press reports.

The more than 500 votes that could still be counted "could be the difference in the sheriff's race, a $40 million school bond levy and a referendum on gambling at The Greenbrier resort," the article said.

The Register-Herald of Beckley was the first with the story, and also reports that the canvass is proceeding much more smoothly in Raleigh County.

Crime and Punishment in West Virginia

The Associated Press previews this week's summit to tackle an over-capacity West Virginia prison system beset by escalating costs.

"This year, the state is expected to spend nearly $156 million to house, feed and provide health care to about 6,000 inmates in work release centers, regional jails and correctional centers across the state," the article said. "The system is already over capacity as about 1,000 additional state inmates are being housed in one of 10 regional jails."

10 November 2008

Sifting Through Election Results

The Associated Press reviews the series of narrow losses that helped mark another tough election for the West Virginian Republican Party, with its state party chairman offering a mixed assessment of money's impact on the GOP fortunes.

AP also reports on the debate within the state Democratic Party over such environmental issues as mountaintop removal mining and the viability of "clean" coal technology.

The Charleston Gazette relays an earlier Politico profile of Charleston native Sarah Feinberg, an aide to President-Elect Barack Obama's chief of staff.

Russ Weeks tells The Register-Herald of Beckley that after his drubbing at the hands of Gov. Joe Manchin, the Republican is "through with politics after being dealt his latest setback, and there is nothing anyone can say or do that is going to change his mind."

Eustace Frederick, 1930-2008

Delegate Eustace Frederick, a retired Consol Coal engineer who represented Mercer County for 15 years in the House, died last week, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reports.

Marc Meachum, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, credited Frederick for the region's biennial Coal Symposium while calling him "a passionate supporter of the coal mining industry."

As The Associated Press reports, the 78-year-old Democrat "had been in declining health when he announced this year that he would not seek a ninth term."

The Charleston Gazette has his obituary.