Charleston Gazette-Mail. November 14, 2023.
Editorial: What now for Manchin?
For a good while, West Virginians have been asking WWJMD (what will Joe Manchin do?) regarding the 2024 election. It’s getting a little clearer, although there are still plenty of questions.
Two things we now know Sen. Manchin, D-W.Va., won’t do include running for reelection to the U.S. Senate, per his announcement last week, or coming back to West Virginia to run for another term as governor (assuming his comments on “Meet the Press” way back in January still hold).
Manchin said last week that he plans to tour the country and look for people interested in building a political agenda based on centrism. That could mean a lot of things. Most believe Manchin is measuring the political winds for a possible third-party presidential run. He’s been asked about it a lot, and has always answered with an “anything’s possible” type of vagueness that is well short of a “no.”
Whether that’s a good idea is a separate issue. Democrats certainly think such an effort by Manchin would be futile for the senator and syphon votes from President Joe Biden in the 2024 election, handing the presidency to extremist and possible felon Donald Trump, who, over the weekend, used a Veterans Day rally to revive the specter of World War II-era European fascism by calling his political opponents “vermin.”
Manchin could throw his hat in the ring as a primary opponent against Biden, although that seems unlikely. Perhaps Manchin will hit the lecture and/or lobbyist circuits. The guy knows how to raise money, especially among the fossil fuels crowd.
Maybe Manchin will retire. He’s in his mid-70s and has spent the past three years going from hero to zero, sometimes more than once in the same day, among both political parties as he’s stymied aspects of Biden’s agenda and enabled others. Manchin’s centrist influence is all over the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, both of which will bring billions of investment dollars into West Virginia.
Still, most Republicans didn’t want anything to do with either bill, while Democrats thought they should’ve included more spending. It’s enough to make one wonder of what type of middle ground Manchin thinks he’ll find somewhere out there in America.
No question, Manchin enjoyed being relevant as the nation’s top power broker, but he might not have bargained for protesters paddling up to his D.C. houseboat or encircling his car (revealing that the down-to-earth senator representing one of the poorest and least healthy states in the nation drives a Maserati).
The only thing that is clear right now is that Manchin either didn’t want to or doesn’t believe he could defend his seat. If it’s the latter, it’s a bit strange and pessimistic of Manchin, considering that his announcement came two days after Democrats and liberal policies on the ballot in border states mostly controlled by Republicans had huge wins and shifted the balance of power.
Manchin is probably the only West Virginia Democrat who could hold that Senate seat, and his likely general election opponent would’ve been Gov. Jim Justice or Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., both highly flawed and ethically challenged candidates.
Gazette-Mail columnist Phil Kabler theorized that Manchin had taken this and more into account and had concluded he still didn’t stand a chance. If that’s really the case, just wait until Manchin hears the odds of becoming president.
Huntington Herald-Dispatch. November 14, 2023.
Editorial: Editorial: Manchin offers unanswered questions; Beshear offers good advice
Joe Manchin gave the political world a lot of questions Thursday when he announced he will not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate next year.
Instead, he said he will be “traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.” Some political operatives think that means he is testing the waters for a third-party run for president, which could siphon off support for President Joe Biden or whoever the Democratic nominee will be.
Manchin’s statements deliberately avoided committing to any one course of action. What Manchin plans to be doing six months from now is a question. He could run for another office, look for another job that keeps him involved in public life, or he may retire from elective politics and make a good living as a lobbyist or a member of the board of directors of a Fortune 500 company. There are so many options for a former U.S. senator.
Only Manchin knows what his endgame plan is. He can be secretive about it now, but as filing deadlines approach, his real plans and what they mean to the state and national Democratic parties will become more clear.
Meanwhile, Democrats may have another rising star next door in Kentucky, where Gov. Andy Beshear won re-election in a state that otherwise trends Republican. One way Beshear won was by focusing on the state’s needs and priorities and not worrying so much about national political concerns.
“Where you ought to be is where people live, because you ought to be doing this not to have one more ‘D’ in any chamber or as a governor, but to help people. And so if you really want to help people, talk about the things that they’re most concerned about,” Beshear said in an interview with the Associated Press after his re-election.
That’s good advice for West Virginia politicians vying for statewide office next year. Talking about culture wars and how one party is drifting too far to the left is nice, but people want their local and state officials to fix the roads, keep them safe in their homes and provide a thorough, efficient and useful education to their children.
After all that is done, then our state officials can worry about what’s happening elsewhere. As the late Tip O’Neill, speaker of the House of Representatives, liked to say, “All politics is local.”
Manchin’s decision and Beshear’s re-election have changed things nationally and in their states’ politics. The next few months will be interesting ones for political junkies.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel. November 15, 2023.
Editorial: Spending: Lawmakers may need to rework the rules
It seems no matter what level of government is being examined, here in West Virginia we live down to our reputation of being poor followers of rules and bad stewards of taxpayer money. On Monday, lawmakers learned problems with spending COVID-19 money made their way into many of our county school systems — not just the couple of which we had already been made aware.
“It seems like there is a massive problem and we should be reviewing everything,” said Del. Kayla Young, D-Kanawha. “It seems like that we don’t have full control over what these (county school boards) … are spending.”
“Full control” might not be quite the right solution, but members of the Joint Standing Committee on Government Organization were told legislative auditors found numerous concerns with how county public school systems handled the federal money they were given between 2020 and 2021.
“The fiscal monitoring system lacks appropriate risk assessment,” said Brandon Burton, a research manager with the Legislative Auditor’s Office. “The frequency of improper purchasing procedures and other ESSER grant violations warranted a reassessment of risk and adjustment to the system’s capacity and structure. The current monitoring process lacks appropriate structure due to a lack of written policies and procedures for the cyclical monitoring process.”
According to a review of monitoring by the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Programs, 37 counties out of 54 monitored were found to be non-compliant for not following proper purchasing procedures, spending money on unallowable expenses, or exceeding indirect cost rates. So, more than $457,000 has been recovered from counties.
Again, while “full control” over what county boards are spending is a step too far, it is essential lawmakers find a way to clean up the mess that meant so many counties’ misspending slipped past the state Department of Education. If the DOE’s job is to monitor that spending on behalf of the federal government — and the federal government already thinks West Virginia cannot be trusted with taxpayer dollars — a reworking of the rules and renewed emphasis on monitoring and enforcement is essential.