14 May 2010

He Voted for You: Debit Card Fees

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., voted for an amendment to the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 meant to "force credit card companies to reduce fees for debit card transactions and permit merchants to offer customer discounts based on their payment method," The Associated Press reports.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd did not vote in the 64-33 roll call that adopted the amendment.

The measure's summary title says it aims "to ensure that the fees that small businesses and other entities are charged for accepting debit cards are reasonable and proportional to the costs incurred, and to limit payment card networks from imposing anti-competitive restrictions on small businesses and other entities that accept payment cards."

AP reports that "the vote was a major defeat for banks, which lobbied hard against it. But the measure attracted heavy bipartisan support and surpassed a 60-vote threshold for passage."

The article also notes that the House-passed version of the bill "does not contain the debit card provision."

W.Va. Press Corps Alum under Fire in Tennessee

Erik Schelzig, a statehouse correspondent for The Associated Press in Nashville, is being threatened with the loss of his press credentials there after attempting to take photos when "House Speaker Kent Williams collapsed from low blood sugar during Thursday's floor session," Romenesko and others report.

Schelzig previously covered the West Virginia Legislature. WSMV-TV has posted raw video of the episode. Lawmakers react to Schelzig's attempt to photograph the scene around 1:50 into the footage.

Romenesko reports that "capitol security threatened to carry him out," and links to a resolution calling for the loss of his press pass.

Viewers of the video may be able to judge whether Schelzig "acted without thought and good judgment in attempting to take photographs and thereby needlessly hindering emergency medical personnel from providing necessary medical care," as the resolution alleges.

reports that the state's AP bureau chief is defending Schelzig's actions, while some lawmakers denounced them. A column on that site calls the backlash against him "more arrogance in government."

Special Session Continues

Lawmakers continue to delve into the eight-education-related bills proposed by Gov. Joe Manchin as part of the ongoing special session, The Associated Press reports.

Those measures include one offering $1,000 salary boosts to classroom teachers, principals and assistant principals who work in high-poverty or high-minority schools.

"Those teachers would get an additional $500 if they ease a shortage of math and science instruction," the article said. The bill also offers $1,000 payments to teachers and administrators who meet "student growth goals."

Amid the reviews of those bills, AP reports separately that the Senate has sent the House four other items from Manchin's agenda. Each fixes a measure passed during the regular session but vetoed.

13 May 2010

Why Mollohan Lost

The Associated Press hears from both the state legislator who felled 14-term U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, in the West Virginia primary election and the GOP nominee for that seat.

Sen. Mike Oliverio, "a conservative Democrat, had run an aggressive campaign, portraying Mollohan as corrupt and out of touch," writes AP's Vicki Smith. "Conservative media rallied around the 46-year-old financial adviser from Morgantown, as did anti-abortion groups angry over Mollohan's support of health care legislation."

Republican Dave McKinley, himself a former legislator, meanwhile said "the outcome is a referendum on Obama's policies, from bailouts of banks and takeovers of car companies to health care reform."

The article also reports that "the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List said it spent $78,000 on the 1st District race and made 80,000 prerecorded calls on Oliverio's behalf Monday and Tuesday. The results, it said, should serve as warning to other incumbents."

The Charleston Daily Mail, meanwhile, talks to political scientists and an editor at Sabato's Crystal Ball for their assessments of the outcome. The article identifies seven factors that potentially contributed to Mollohan's loss.

Special Session: Legislature Gavels in (Updated)

The West Virginia Legislature has begun the special session called for by Gov. Joe Manchin, mostly to tackle education issues, The Associated Press reports.

Manchin's proclamation also proposes a new, federally funded high-risk health insurance pool, a health-related funding measure and three bills that he vetoed from the regular session because of technical flaws.

The governor has also posted summaries of his proposed legislation.

AP had reported earlier that the state's two main teachers' groups have raised objections either to the key education bills or the concepts behind them. Manchin responded both to AP and the Charleston Daily Mail about their expected resistance to his proposals.

MetroNews also reports on the stance taken by one of those groups, the West Virginia Education Association, as does The Charleston Gazette.

MetroNews and the The Gazette also offer previews of the special session's agenda.

12 May 2010

Rahall to Face Maynard in November

Democrat-turned-Republican Elliott "Spike" Maynard eked out a win Tuesday to challenge U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-3rd, in the fall, The Associated Press reports.

Maynard received barely more than 30% of the vote in a four-way GOP primary race, sporting a 433-vote margin of victory. Rahall advanced after garnering more than 67% of the vote over Bruce Barilla.

11 May 2010

W.Va. Primary: Legislative Races Update (Updated)

The Associated Press reports that:

  • Sen. Frank Deem, R-Wood whose legislative career stretches back to the 1950s, fell to current (corrected from former) Vienna Mayor David Nohe.
  • Sen. Randy White, D-Webster, lost a rematch with former Nicholas County prosecutor Greg Tucker.
  • Ron Justice had dropped out of the race for an open Senate seat with health problems last month. But with his name still on the ballot, the former Morgantown mayor attracted slightly more votes than Delegate Bob Beach, D-Monongalia. Update: State election officials point out that Justice can't actually win because's no longer a candidate, leaving Beach as the nominee. (Post edited to correct/clarify)
  • Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, held off two challengers and a six-figure attack ad campaign by labor groups.
  • Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, (updated) fended off Mingo County Commissioner Greg "Hootie" Smith in a rematch.
  • (2nd Update) Delegate Tom Louisos, D-Fayette, was displaced in that district's primary by John Pino. Louisos had done the same to Pino in 2008.

McKinley Wins GOP Nod (Updated)

Dave McKinley has prevailed in a field of six Republican hopefuls to run in November for West Virginia's 1st Congressional District, The Associated Press reports.

Update: With all precincts reporting, McKinley received nearly 35% of the GOP vote. Andrew "Mac" Warner followed with nearly 27%.

Oliverio Beats Mollohan (Updated)

U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, lost West Virginia's Democratic primary to state Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, The Associated Press reports.

With 75 percent of precincts reporting, Oliverio had 56.2 percent to Mollohan's 43.7 percent.

Update: AP pegged Oliverio's final tally at nearly 56 percent of the vote. He did nearly that well in Mollohan's home turf of Marion County, while attracting 62 percent in Monongalia.

W.Va. Primary: The Returns

The Associated Press will be reporting on results throughout the evening.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant is posting unofficial returns online.

So is MetroNews and (updated) The Charleston Gazette.

Various counties are also posting returns, including:

W.Va. Primary: Congress

The Democratic and Republican primaries in West Virginia's 1st Congressional District have easily enjoyed the highest national profile of any races in the state this year.

The Associated Press focuses on those races and those in the other two districts:

  • Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, is battling state Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, for their party's nomination. Political Wire noted the article by AP's Vicki Smith along with other coverage in a post, "Another Incumbent Fights for His Political Life."
  • The six Republicans jockeying to take on Mollohan (or Oliverio) have also gotten attention beyond the state's borders.
  • Rep. Nick Rahall, D-3rd, faces a political novice who planned to spend no more than $5,000.
  • Four Republicans seek to challenge Rahall in November, in a primary contest marked by anemic fundraising.
  • Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, is unopposed in her primary as is the district's Democratic candidate, Virginia Lynch Graf.
The polls close at 7:30 p.m.

W.Va. Primary: Legislature

More than one-third of West Virginia's legislative candidates have no primary opponents and are assured their party's nomination. But Tuesday's ballots do include close-appearing contests in both the House and Senate, The Associated Press reports.

AP offers a rundown of races of note, including several of the 13 open seats up for grabs.

Polls close at 7:30 p.m.

W.Va. Primary: Early Voting

With the polls still open this hour, The Associated Press reports that nearly 40,500 West Virginians cast in-person early ballots for the primary.

That's higher than the early voting during the previous mid-term primary, in 2006.

Democrats outnumber Republicans by just under 2-to-1, came out to vote early by a slightly higher margin when compared to the GOP.

"Turnout was slightly greater in the 20-county 1st Congressional District than in the state's other two House districts," the article said. "Incumbent Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., faces state Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, in their party's primary. Six Republicans seek the GOP's nod to take on the winner in November."

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant issued a press release on the early voting figures.

Tennant's office also told AP that primary day voting started "without a hitch."

The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington reports that in Cabell County, "it’s been a slow but steady voter turnout so far on this rainy Tuesday morning."

Election 2010: W.Va. Senate

More than one-third of West Virginia's 2010 legislative candidates are assured their party's nomination Tuesday, because they have no primary opponents.

But campaign finance reports suggest a handful of contested races across the state, The Associated Press reports.

"The most expensive contest has been the Democratic primary rematch between Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin and Mingo County Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith," the article said. "Chafin, who is seeking an 8th term, had loaned his campaign $197,000 as of April 25. He raised another $60,545, nearly three times as much as Smith. But Smith had also self-financed, to the tune of $140,000, and had spent $170,428 to Chafin’s $193,267."

That race is a re-match from 2006, as is the contest between Sen. Randy White, D-Webster, and Nicholas County prosecutor Greg Tucker, who had outspent the incumbent as of April 25, AP reports.

The article also cites figures from candidates seeking the Democratic nod in Cabell, Hancock, Kanawha and Lincoln counties.

"These few races have also attracted nearly all of the $179,000 spent by third parties on independent ads for or against candidates and reported to the secretary of state so far this election season," AP notes. "Ninety percent of that money has come from labor unions."

Election 2010: 1st Congressional District - Democrats

Following up on its earlier overview of the race, The Associated Press sets the stage for the primary contest between U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, and state Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia.

"The congressman has campaigned on his ability to deliver federal funds to the 20-county district that borders Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania and includes West Virginia University in Morgantown," the article said. But he also "voted for Obama's health care law, which he considers a landmark achievement. That vote cost him long-standing support from the National Right to Life and its West Virginia division, which fear the law will allow federal dollars for abortion. Both have endorsed Oliverio."

Oliverio, meanwhile, "continues to criticize Mollohan over past ethics allegations," and "while Mollohan ultimately opposed the proposed limits on such greenhouse gases a carbon released by burning coal, Oliverio says it was too little, too late," AP reports.

Other factors that did not make it into the final version:

  • AP estimates that Mollohan can't spend $120,000 in his campaign fund until the general election - if he gets there - because it came from donors who have already maxed out their primary election contribution limit."
  • Mollohan siphoned out another $115,000 over the course of the election cycle to repay previous loans to his campaign.
  • While Mollohan's internal poll of April 21-22 showed him up by 9 percentage points, it also showed a 19 percent undecided despite a 94% name recognition rate.
  • Only a slight majority of those undecideds were favorable toward the incumbent, 51% to 28%.
  • Mollohan has raised $121,000 in last-minute contributions, while Oliverio has attracted $103,900.
  • At least a dozen people who gave $500 or more to Mollohan in 2006 have contributed to Oliverio instead this year.
  • Oliverio has received more than $30,000 from people who have also contributed to one (or more) of the Republicans running for the 1st District nomination.

10 May 2010

They Voted for You: Cash for Caulkers

U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, and Nick Rahall, D-3rd, voted for legislation that would create a "Home Star Retrofit Rebate" program.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, opposed the bill along with all but a dozen of the other House GOP members present for the 246-161 roll call.

The two-year, $5.7 billion program would offer homeowners "rebates for renovating their homes with better insulation and energy-saving windows and doors," The Associated Press reports.

"Supporters estimate that 3 million households would make use of the new program, saving $9.2 billion in energy costs over a 10-year period. They said it would create 168,000 jobs, mainly in the recession-hit construction industry," the article said. "Republicans were more skeptical, saying the cost was too high amid rising federal debts."