Sunday, August 21, 2005

WVGOP Summer Conference a Huge Success

This weekend, the West Virginia Republican party held a 2-day Summer Conference at the Embassy Suites in Charleston. The conference featured various speakers and panel discussions about the state Republican Party, where we have been, and where we are going. This was in addition to Saturday's meeting of the Republican State Executive Committee, which had previously been a stand-alone event.

The highlights of the conference were the speeches delivered on Friday by Secretary of State Betty Ireland and former Governor Cecil Underwood, who was in attendance for the entire conference, and on Saturday by retired WVU basketball coach Gale Catlett and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. Of those four, the clear winner for newsworthiness and inspiration was the speech by Mr. Blankenship.

Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, native West Virginian, only Fortune 1000 company CEO who lives in West VirginiaIn his address to the state committee, Don Blankenship announced that he would spend approximately $500,000 of his own money on TV ads over the next two weeks calling for the governor and the Legislature to repeal the food tax during the special legislative session that convenes September 7. This is an issue with which 82% of West Virginians, all Republican legislators, and enough Democratic legislators to give the Republicans a majority, agree. The only impediment is the Democratic leadership, which is so covetous of our money that they will not entertain any tax cut of any kind, regardless of what provisions we propose to ensure that the "loss of revenue" resulting from the cuts would come only from future revenue growth rather than actually reduce revenues from what they currently are. Click here and here for previous articles in which I outline the array of tax cut proposals the Ruling Party's leadership has obstructed because of their greed.

Also contained in Blankenship's speech was news that has been totally unreported in this state and also, sadly, not a surprise. Tony Arbaugh, the convicted serial child molester who was the focus on last year's bitterly-contested state Supreme Court race, is back in jail for reoffending. This time, the victims were underage girls. As I have written before, West Virginia needs to strengthen its sex offender laws to ensure that child molesters go to prison and don't get probation.

Attendees of the state committee meeting also learned that the party's finances are improving considerably. The party's debt, once estimated at over $200,000, has now been reduced by over $40,000 with settlements between the party and many of its creditors to settle the debts for reduced sums. Additionally, many creditors have not responded to letters of inquiry sent by the party's Debt Reconciliation Committee to each creditor requesting proof of their claims. In addition, the state party raised over $40,000 last week at a reception in Wheeling in conjunction with RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman's visit to speak to the Ohio County GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner. This amount is greater than any single-event fundraiser held by the party in several years.

West Virginia Republicans are unified, optimistic, and have the winning plan. The divisions and rancor that erupted earlier this year during the attempts to remove our former chairman are now ancient history. Already, we are well on our way to recruiting the candidates for the state Senate necessary to win the battle for control of the upper chamber next year. Control of the House of Delegates is not out of the question, although we face longer odds there since we are currently 19 seats short of a majority. The vast majority of Southern states whose legislatures have been overtaken by Republicans usually began with a takeover of the state Senate followed by the House--usually in the next election or two.

Based in the success of this conference, state Republican Chairman Rob Capehart plans to make the conference a semi-annual event to coincide with the state committee meetings. If you missed the 2005 Summer Conference, plan to attend the Winter Conference, dates to be announced.