Charleston Gazette Mail. July 26, 2023.
Editorial: McCuskey 1st to drop in crowded WV governor’s race
State Auditor J.B. McCuskey was the first of what could be many departures from the crowded 2024 Republican primary for the West Virginia Governor’s Office.
McCuskey announced Monday that he was dropping out of the contest and intends to run for attorney general, instead. It’s the first domino to fall in a group that includes current Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Delegate Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, Secretary of State Mac Warner and Chris Miller, a car dealer and son of Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., along with a few lesser-known candidates.
From the outset, it was unlikely that all of those candidates would hang in the race up until the official filing period next year, let alone stick it out all the way to the May primary.
Unfortunately, running for governor takes a lot of money. Outside of the obvious problem that creates in a democratic system, it’s also a practical concern in a race with so many well-known candidates. It’s a bit of a paradox. There’s little reason for a candidate to try and keep up in the arms race if early indicators aren’t great, but, even if a candidate did want to push through, backers are less likely to fund a candidate who hasn’t raised a large war chest or isn’t ranking at the top of the polls.
Speaking of which, poll numbers released earlier this month from the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Orion Strategies showed Morrisey leading the field among prospective Republican voters at 31%, with Capito right on his heels at 30%. Warner was at 9%, with Miller at 5%. Only 3% of respondents had McCuskey as their favored candidate (the poll has a 6% margin of error). McCuskey also was at 3% in a poll conducted by a political action committee backing Morrisey in March.
Polling can certainly be questionable, but McCuskey didn’t seem to be moving the needle much. McCuskey had raised about $400,000, which didn’t quite stack up to cash on hand for Morrisey and Capito, both at around $1 million. Miller has $3 million to burn to try to boost his profile.
In a way, McCuskey’s departure is a shame. He might have been the best Republican candidate for the job of governor. In his role as auditor, he’s generally done what he was elected to do and hasn’t unnecessarily plunged his office into culture wars or surface-level political battles that have nothing to do with the primary concerns of West Virginians. That’s not exactly the GOP brand these days, though.
Now, McCuskey finds himself in a primary battle for attorney general with state Sen. Mike Stuart, R-Kanawha — who was just elected to a full term in the Senate last year but already is seeking another gig — and state Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke.
Attorney general is a more politicized position, and it was disheartening to hear McCuskey say he would continue the work Morrisey has done if elected. But McCuskey’s chances are much better in that race, and the job could be an eventual stepping stone toward the Governor’s Office or Congress.
In the meantime, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if more candidates drop out of the Republican field for governor in the coming months. Deep-pocketed donors are going to place their bets based on public and insider polling, what’s being said in those proverbial smoke-filled back rooms and which candidate they figure is the best return for their investment.
Just based on polling, Miller would figure to be the next big name to exit. However, he can likely hang around even if his numbers don’t drastically improve in the short term, given his family’s wealth and political connections. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a shift in the dead heat between Morrisey and Capito. Warner also might be eying the exit ramp if polling and funds are any indicator of such things.
Of course, this is all speculative. There’s still a long way to go, and anything can happen.
Herald-Dispatch. July 23, 2023.
Editorial: Overdue cleanup of WV State Police has begun
The process of cleaning up the West Virginia State Police and restoring public confidence in the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement agency has begun — but only begun.
Last week, State Police Superintendent Jack Chambers said he has fired four troopers since he took over the agency about four months ago. Chambers would not identify the officers or say why they were dismissed. His only comment was that they were “failing to meet the standards and expectations of the State Police.”
It’s been a rough 2023 for the State Police. Last year, an anonymous letter included allegations of wrongdoing by state police. It revealed there was a hidden camera in the women’s locker room at the State Police Academy in Institute and police administrators hid that incident from the public. The letter made other accusations of wrongdoing at high levels of the State Police.
When the letter writer’s identity was made known, he was arrested on domestic violence charges that were later dropped. The trooper’s attorney says the alleged victim was coerced by her supervisor into filing the domestic violence charge.
Outside of that, two women in Logan County have filed civil suits saying they were drugged, abducted and sexually assaulted by a state trooper.
The new administration of the State Police has begun the process of cleaning up this mess, and more is to come.
The West Virginia State Police is not alone in being under this microscope. Police nationwide are under scrutiny as never before. Online channels chronicle the misdeeds of law enforcement. Police are recorded losing their tempers, arresting people for the crime of disrespecting them and using excessive force. Every time an officer does that and is not held accountable, public trust in law enforcement diminishes.
It happens here in West Virginia, just as it does anywhere else in the nation.
Law enforcement officers can no longer harass women just for fun. Neither can they bully “civilians” because their badge gives them authority to do so. Bodycams, dashcams and cell phone video have changed that. Things that happened in the past and went unchallenged are now coming to light. As with many other professions, law enforcement must change to meet modern expectations.
The West Virginia State Police can use this opportunity to clean house of people who should not wear a badge. It can bring honor and trust back to the agency if it holds bad officers responsible for their deeds. That goes beyond firing a few people or allowing them to resign or retire. Criminal acts must bring criminal charges.
The fact is that the acts of a few, if not held accountable, reflect badly on officers and agencies who do their jobs well. There are many of those, but they suffer when their fellow officers get away with doing wrong.
It could be a long process, but it’s a necessary one. Technology and social media have brought a new level of accountability to law enforcement. It’s up to the West Virginia State Police to meet the challenge.
The Intelligencer. July 24, 2023.
Editorial: Secretary Sandy Served West Virginia Well
As West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced last week that state Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeff Sandy is planning to retire, he made it clear Sandy was a valuable enough leader that he was welcome to stay a while longer.
“I absolutely want everyone to know if Jeff Sandy wants to stay and everything, he’s welcome to stay here until my term is up,” Justice said. “He has done a great, great, great job.”
That kind of respect does not come unearned.
Justice called Sandy “an honorable man who’s helped my administration in countless ways,” and one who will be missed because of his tireless work ethic.
The seven years in which Sandy has served West Virginians in Charleston have been eventful, to say the least.
Though there have been hiccups along the way, as there would have been for anyone in his position, Sandy oversaw the reorganization of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety as the Department of Homeland Security — just as the COVID-19 pandemic was tightening its grip on our state. He was in charge of consolidating jails, prisons and juvenile centers into one administrative unit, as well.
In fact, in his retirement letter, Sandy said “I leave knowing we made a difference.”
That difference led to more than just accolades upon retirement. Sandy also received a Distinguished West Virginian award Wednesday.
As we look forward to Mark Sorsaia’s success in leading DHS, we join the governor in thanking Sandy for his years of service; and we offer him congratulations on retirement from a job well done.