Friday, August 05, 2005

Peyton Endorses Republican Against Rahall

Dave Peyton--Charleston Daily Mail columnist, lovable leftist, and fellow blogger--is already endorsing a Republican challenger to Congressman Nick Rahall, D-Beckley, in next year's congressional election. Peyton, whose appearances on Hoppy's Statewide Talklike is always preceded with the Soviet Union's national anthem, is endorsing Cabell County Sheriff Kim Wolfe.

New Poster Rumored to Debut Soon in Governor Manchin's Office

Manchin Appoints Son to State Tourism Commission

Governor Manchin has appointed his son Joe IV to the state Tourism Commission. Click here to view the story.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Manchin Prepares September Push for Table Games

Governor Manchin is preparing an all-out push to legalize Las Vegas-style table games at the state's four dog and horse tracks during a special legislative session scheduled to begin September 7. Manchin, whose campaign for governor received tens of thousands of dollars from the gambling industry, supported an unsuccessful effort during the regular session earlier this year to bring full-blown casino gambling to West Virginia.

roulette wheel and craps tableIn an attempt to make table games more palatable to a conservative state, Manchin wants a table games bill to contain additional regulations of the thousands of mini-casinos featuring 5 or 10 video poker machines each that have spread throughout this state like kudzu since legislators and former Governor Bob Wise legalized video poker in 2001. As I discuss in the last paragraph below, the saddest part of this whole issue is that the Republican caucus in the state Senate has the power to stop this but will not.

Gambling supporters say that the moral question of gambling is irrelevant to table games because the state long ago decided the basic moral question of state-sanctioned gambling. One bad act begets another.

slot machineA decade ago, the gambling lobby began its push for slot machines at the tracks in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Lobbyists told all three states that they could make hundreds of millions of dollars for their respective states and create thousands of jobs with slots. Moreover, they told legislators in each state that the other two states were about to do the same and they should act fast to prevent this potential loss. Guess who fell for it? West Virginia. Pennsylvania bit the bait last year but has yet to put any slots online. Maryland is still holding firm, even though they're doing so at the "loss" of the millions of dollars Marylanders spend at tracks in West Virginia and Delaware.

Now, the lobbyists are going for table games here in West Virginia with the threat that the three tracks bordering Maryland and Pennsylvania will lose all their customers and they need table games to keep their businesses going. Keep in mind that many of these gambling operators are also have tracks in Pennsylvania and Maryland that are supposedly competing against them. Our Legislature is being played for a fool (and most of us understand why) and if the gambling lobby gets table games, rest assured they will then go to Harrisburg and Annapolis and ask for the same there.

The greatest reason for my objections to the continuing expansion of gambling in West Virginia are not so much on the basic morality of gambling but on the fact that of all the gambling addicts out there, our state government is the biggest one of all. In the mid-1980s, they wanted another fix of money, so they got the lottery. Then, that wasn't enough, so they got betting at the tracks. Then, in the mid-1990s, the earlier fix wearing off, they anted up and went for slots at the tracks. Then in 2001, wanting money for what became the biggest Christmas tree to ever emerge from the Legislature, they legalized mini-casinos of 5 or 10 video poker machines each in every community in this state. Now, wanting money for public employee pay raises and paying off the state's unfunded liabilities, table games are on the table. Are we really going to roll the dice on this? Do we really believe that the trip down this slippery slope will finally end with full-scale Las Vegas-style gambling (although without the same tourist orientation of Vegas or the very low taxes Nevada uses its gambling revenues to sustain)?

What's next, prostitution? Maybe not that outrageous for a state that has prostituted itself to the gambling industry for the lure of the almighty dollar.

Finally, the saddest part of the whole table games issue is that the bill had the support of five Republican state senators during the regular session. The bill does not have enough Democratic votes to pass without several Republicans crossing over. I give a couple of senators, Andy McKenzie and even John Yoder, a pass because they represent districts with tracks. However, I cannot understand why Charlie Lanham, RINO-Mason, Karen Facemeyer, R-Jackson, and Sarah Minear, R-Tucker, would support this. What's even worse, Facemeyer cast the deciding vote in 2001 for the video poker bill, which passed the Senate without a vote to spare (it passed 18-16). Without their votes, the bill would die and never see the light of day again. Our party is now in much better shape than it was six months ago to crack the whip and enforce party discipline and must make opposition to table games--no matter what concessions are offered to make the bill more palatable--a nonnegotiable litmus test for legislators whose districts do not include tracks. Death would befall the gambling movement in this state and we could then focus on growing those parts of the economy that are actually productive and make a positive contribution to society.

Each Republican senator who voted for the table games bill is pictured below.

Senator Andy McKenzie, R-OhioSenator Karen Facemeyer, R-Jackson--NO TRACKS IN DISTRICTSenator Charles Lanham, RINO-Mason--NO TRACKS IN DISTRICTSenator Sarah Minear, R-Tucker--NO TRACKS IN DISTRICTSenator John Yoder, R-Jefferson

Feds Won't Back Off

Charles Miller, the acting US Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia following the departure of Kasey Warner, says Warner's departure doesn't mean the loss of momentum in their efforts to purge political corruption in Lincoln and Logan counties.

Yesterday's indictment of Lincoln County Assessor Jerry Weaver was most newsworthy because of its initial demonstration of the commitment the feds were keeping to this case. Many people feared that Warner's departure would result in the death of this case.

The corruption in Lincoln and Logan counties is deeper and wider than most people could imagine. Election fraud is only the beginning of it. The people who buy their way into office abuse their power to control public employment, fix tickets and criminal cases, grant excessive property tax breaks, and manipulate the local economy by picking winners and losers and rewarding their friends and punishing their enemies.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Lincoln County Assessor Indicted for Vote-Buying

Jerry WeaverA federal grand jury has indicted Lincoln County Assessor Jerry Weaver for buying votes in several elections. The Charleston Gazette has reported previously that a cooperating witness has testified to driving to Weaver's home and receiving from Weaver bags filled with cash and "slates," or lists of candidates endorsed by a particular person or group. Votes are alleged to often be bought for $10 or $20 for a full slate. The money is said to be usually supplied by candidates who buy their way onto a slate.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Byrd Launches TV Ads

Don Surber says that ole Sheets is taking to the airwaves in response to an ad campaign begun last Friday by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. You may view the ad by clicking here. I agree that this is a sign that Team Byrd is quite scared, especially since there's no viable candidate in the race yet.

Regardless of what you think about whether he should be reelected next year to another 6 years in the Senate at the age of 89, one thing is certain. The one thing Byrd & Company have not been displaying is the kind of confidence you would expect from the only man to carry all 55 counties in West Virginia--and three times to boot!--and who won 77% of the vote in 2000 and has his name plastered on hundreds of things across this state and a giant statue of himself in the Rotunda of the State Capitol. Having the DSCC release its poll showing Byrd leading Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito 51-41 in a hypothetical matchup was bad enough, but beginning to unload the war chest like this 15 months before an election in which no viable candidate has yet announced a candidacy?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Capehart Sets the Record Straight

Today's Beckley Register Herald has a story featuring state Republican Party Chairman Rob Capehart's well-thought response to the recent smear state Democratic Chairman Nick Casey made toward state Senator Russ Weeks, R-Beckley, and the Republican Party generally.

When the Dems are scared, bankrupt of ideas (or at least ideas they care to promote publicly), what else should we expect but name calling, character assassination, and appeals to class envy? I forgot to mention half-backed attempts to offer watered-down versions of the Republican program as they did this year with Worker's Compensation and tort reform. Taking our plans, dunking them under Blackwater Falls, and then promoting the resulting product as your plan isn't going to cut it. Just ask Oshel Craigo, Bill Wooton, John Mitchell, Mary Pearl Compton, Anita Caldwell, Mike Ross, or Jerry Mezzatesta.

Until we defeated Mike Ross, the Dems had many explanations for our recent gains. Oshel Craigo was a big tax and spender and shill for the poker operators; Wooton, Compton, and Mitchell were just too liberal; and Mess-atesta had too much baggage. However, when we defeated Mike Ross, that's when the Dems under the formerly gold and now prophylactic-clad dome really became fearful. Defeating Ross proved that the Dems have no protection from our eventual takeover of the Legislature even if they walk, talk, and try to look like a Republican.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Byrd Enjoys Meeting with Roberts, Says They Share a Kindred Spirit

I have a hunch Team Byrd is nervous about the upcoming election.

From MetroNews:

U.S. Senator Robert Byrd says he seems to have a kindred spirit in some areas with U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Byrd met with Roberts for more than an hour Friday afternoon.

Byrd says he was impressed with the federal judge's knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and a great interest in classical history.

Senator Byrd says Judge Roberts demonstrated independence. Byrd says he considers himself to have an independent spirit in the U.S. Senate.

Byrd says he likes Roberts' demeanor. "A fine personality. A friendly, captivating personality, I like that."

Senator Byrd says he must do more reading of Judge Roberts' written opinions. The senior senator says he will also lean heavily on what the Senate Judiciary Committee says after its full interview of Roberts.

NRSC Has an Ad, Still Needs a Viable Candidate

Robert C. Byrd Center for insert name here

As you know, the NRSC launched its first ad of the 2006 campaign Friday here in West Virginia against Senator Byrd. You can view the ad by clicking here. The ad is a good first ad and discusses a couple of issues very intelligently and respectfully. However, there's just one ingredient missing: Who is running against Byrd that could actually beat him?

Now, I know that Hiram Lewis and maybe a couple of other people have announced their candidacies for this seat. I know Hiram and like him, but in all honesty, he has about the same chance of defeating Senator Byrd as I have for setting a new world record in the 100 meter dash--or any running contest for that matter. But the sad truth is that our party's fate in the 2006 Senate contest here in West Virginia lies in the hands of one woman: Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (campaign site).

Senator ByrdWill it happen?Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito

The speculation has run rampant for months and the polls have shown that a Byrd-Capito contest is now a dead heat (not bad for a challenger to an icon who has his name plastered to public edifices across this state and who has been in Congress longer than she has been alive), but she is not talking. Will she run? I really don't know. The reasons for and against running against Byrd are both numerous. Defeating Byrd would make her the ultimate giant-killer in West Virginia politics and instantly a prominent national figure. Deferring on this race and waiting to challenge our other senator, Jay Rockefeller, in 2008, would still allow her to become a senator in the near term. Rockefailure, of course, is a longtime nemesis of her father, former Governor Arch Moore (who defeated Rocky in 1972 but lost in 1980 when Rocky spent more than $12 million of his inherited fortune in the state's most expensive race ever). Running against Byrd is seen as a bigger gamble. Running against Rockefailure is seen as a very safe bet.

One sign that Capito is leaning toward not running for the Senate is the recent departure from her Washington office of chief of staff Martin Baker. Baker had joined with the intention of migrating to a Senate campaign but quit after apparently not receiving the response he sought when he demanded to make the move. However, Capito has not taken advantage of the speculation--as others often do--to raise tons of money before announcing that she would stay in her current office. However, in favor of Capito running for the Senate is that after a wildfire of speculation and anticipation among the chattering classes that she was getting ready to run, she threw a wet blanket on this talk by dumping Baker, moderating her public comments, and not raking in the dough. Is she very shrewdly playing her cards here to make an announcement real news to not only the public that gets its news from the mainstream media but also to political insiders and junkies that relish the behind-the-scenes talk and insider information? Finally, does Shelley want to take the risk, however small, of taking a pass on this race only to see another Republican defy the odds and beat her to the punch of becoming the first Republican to win a US Senate race in West Virginia in 50 years? Of course, all this merely brings us back to the fact that we really don't know what Shelley will do.

So why do I focus exclusively on Shelley Moore Capito? Simply put, she is the only candidate who would have a chance at beating Byrd as long as he doesn't die or do anything incredibly inappropriate or have a disastrous "senior moment" when he forgets where he is or what he's doing. I was surprised myself when the polls were released showing that if she decided to run, Shelley would enter the race already in a dead heat when I had previously expected that a considerable amount of time and money would be needed to bring the race to that point.

Run, Shelley, run!