07 May 2010

GOP Slugfest Continues in 1st Congressional District

The gloves came off several weeks ago as the six Republicans seeking to challenge U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, sought to distinguish themselves in the minds of their primary voters.

Residents of the district have witnessed the TV, radio and other ads that several of the GOP hopefuls have launched against each other.

The rancor has spilled over into candidate forums, The Hill reports. "Republicans Mac Warner and David McKinley got into a fierce exchange during a GOP candidates debate in Wheeling Wednesday night," the article said. "Warner accused McKinley of 'feigning concern' for his son who was injured serving in Afghanistan, then calling his opponent 'unfit to serve' in Congress in a mailer the next day."

The Intelligencer of Wheeling covered the forum, but that report does not appear to include the exchange.

Warner later told the News and Sentinel of Parkersburg that "he can support any winner except Dave McKinley in November."

McKinley said he would support the party's nominee "although I am concerned about our chances if one or more of the other candidates were to become the nominee," the article said.

The McKinley campaign has also taken heart in a CQ Politics article that opines that "Democrats would prefer to face Warner, whom they think has baggage from his business dealings that Warner’s GOP detractors also are trying to exploit, than either McKinley or (Sarah) Minear."

Candidate Cries Foul in Lincoln County

A contested primary for state Senate has revived the specter of voter fraud in Lincoln County.

The Lincoln Journal reported that the clerk's office there had already received applications for 825 absentee ballots, while just 265 had been cast in the 2008 primary. That led "a state senator seeking re-election this cycle" to express concern to that newspaper, the article said.

"I have heard tape recorded depositions from several Lincoln County voters who have reported that unnamed persons have visited their homes with envelopes containing absentee ballots that were already marked with my opponents name," the lawmaker, Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, told the Boone Examiner.

Stollings is facing a primary challenge from Delegate Jeff Eldridge, D-Lincoln, in the Senate district that covers both their counties as well as Logan and part of Wayne.

Stollings also shared his concerns with the Lincoln newspaper as well as The Charleston Gazette, Charleston Daily Mail and MetroNews (audio here) , advising them that he's hired a lawyer and plans to file a complaint.

U.S. Attorney Chuck Miller has since told the Daily Mail and MetroNews (with audio) that his office will review the absentee ballot requests.

The Lincoln Journal also reports on Eldridge's response to the situation.

06 May 2010

Legislature Headed for Special Session

The Associated Press reports on details from the special session that Gov. Joe Manchin plans to call starting May 13, with education expected to dominate the agenda.

The bulk of lawmakers' time will likely be spent on proposals meant to improve West Virginia schools while also boosting its shot at federal Race to the Top grant funding. State education officials, responding to a challenge from Manchin, drafted the proposals last month.

The state Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety has recommended that "Manchin include a measure setting up special inspection teams that would focus on dangerous coal mines," the article said. AP reported separately on that proposal.

AP had also reported earlier that the session would feature legislation allowing for the sort of temporary, high-risk health insurance pool envisioned by the new federal health care law. The governor had cited the planned measure in a letter last week to U.S. Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius.

Lawmakers may also revisit bills vetoed from this year's regular session because of technical flaws. Administration officials tell The Register-Herald of Beckley that "off the table for now" is the nixed bill that would have given extra coal severance tax revenues to the state's 30 mining counties.

04 May 2010

Quote of the Day

"In education, we blame educators for everything. You name an educator that's had to take a business course, that's had to take a management course, had to take a financial course. They don't have that. ... None of them have any expertise in those areas and we wonder why we're not successful.''

-- Gov. Joe Manchin, quoted by The Associated Press at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce round-table discussion on education in Washington, D.C.

Election 2010: Upper Big Branch

The Associated Press observes signs of the April 5 underground mine disaster at Upper Big Branch becoming "fodder in the state's ongoing election races."

The re-election bid of state Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, is the most conspicuous example. A union-funded television ad invokes the mine tragedy while attacking Wells over his committee vote against a 2008 bill that proposed "providing whistle-blower protection for reporting unsafe mine conditions."

Wells and his his supporters have denounced the ad as "shameful," and he launched his own spot in response. One union leader said the sponsors stand behind the ad, plan to continue to air it and may follow up with a new one.

AP reported during the 2008 session "that committee members debated whether the bill would improve the state's existing whistleblower provisions, which Wells also refers to in responding to the attack," the article said. "A divided committee ultimately rejected the bill."

The Charleston Gazette and Charleston Daily Mail have also reported on the attack ad.

The AP article also reports that "the political spending of Massey Energy Chief Executive Don Blankenship has also come under renewed scrutiny," since the disaster, along with the company's handling of the mine and its safety record.

John Cummings, the former Cabell Circuit judge challenging state Sen. Evan Jenkins in next week's primary, cites a prior Blankenship contribution to his Democratic opponent in a TV ad.

Blankenship is also hovering over the tight primary contest between Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, and county Commissioner Greg "Hootie" Smith, and the 3rd congressional district bid of Democrat-turned-Republican Elliott "Spike" Maynard, the article said.

Manchin to Stump in Race for Murtha Seat

Gov. Joe Manchin is slated to appear in Washington, Pa., to campaign for Mark Critz as the fellow Democrat seeks the seat left vacant by the death of Rep. John Murtha, The Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown reports.

CQ Politics also has an item on Manchin stumping for the former Murtha aide, who is running in the May 18 special election against Republican Tim Burns.

"Several public polls show the race to succeed the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) as too close to call, even though Democrats have a more than a 2-1 voter registration advantage in the southwestern Pennsylvania House district," the latter reports, adding that "it's the bragging rights for winning the seat that could be most valuable for either party."

The Associated Press has an item.

Election 2010: 1st U.S. House - Republicans (Updated)

Republicans running to challenge U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan have been courting Tea Party groups in the state's 1st District, where the movement may have its best shot at influencing an election this year in West Virginia, The Associated Press reports.

While neither group has endorsed a GOP candidate, leaders of the Parkersburg and North Central tea parties say a number of their members appear to favor Andrew "Mac" Warner. Tom Stark also enjoys support among the latter group, as does Sarah Minear and Dave McKinley, co-founder Ryan Kennedy said.

"Kennedy added that his group has endorsed state Sen. Mike Oliverio, Mollohan's challenger in the May 11 Democratic primary," the article said.

"He said a lot of things that probably would be very welcome at a Tea Party rally," Kennedy told AP, citing a recent Oliverio radio appearance.

Update: The Hill reports that " internal GOP polling shows Warner has surpassed former state Sen. Sarah Minear in polling and is running first in the key Clarksburg and Parkersburg media markets."

The North Central tea party is based around Clarksburg. The bulk of The Hill report focuses on $24,000 worth of tax liens filed against the Warner brothers beleaguered rental housing business. The article notes AP's earlier report on the Warners' financial and legal woes.

McKinley seized on those liens when responding to AP regarding criticisms of his candidacy from members of the Parkersburg tea party, and the support of its members of Warner's campaign.

As AP had, The Hill cites McKinley's national GOP backing while reporting that "the underfunded Warner is threatening to play spoiler." It concludes the business and financial situation "hasn't kept Warner from running an increasingly successful campaign for Congress."