Sunday, May 22, 2016

West Virginia politics, in the news

First the severe beating taken by a candidate for West Virginia state senate made the news here and here.  Richard Ojeda, 45, and a retired U.S. Army Major, was beaten by Jonathan Porter.  Interestingly, the two had known each other since they were children.  Ojeda went on to win the Democratic primary, defeating a one-term incumbent by a 2K vote margin with out 20K votes cast.   This excerpt is about a Washington Post story regarding the events:
The suspect ...  allegedly arrived uninvited at a cookout, asked Ojeda to place bumper stickers on his truck and then attacked the candidate after luring him away. 
Porter surrendered after hiding in a mountain area for six hours, and was charged with malicious assault, police said. 
Authorities have not revealed a motive for the attack, but Ojeda alleged it was politically motivated vengeance for him challenging the state’s political establishment.
The New York Times report of Ojeda's beating offered this characterization:
[Ojeda's] platform opposes what he describes as the state government’s political nepotism, corruption and misuse of government funds. 
“We don’t have transparency in Logan County,” Mr. Ojeda said. “If you work in the coal industry and you asked a question to any of these people, you would find yourself laid off.” 
Mr. Ojeda noted that the attack came hours after he had published photographs of a document that he had obtained through the Freedom of Information Act showing his opponent was a paid consultant for the county. 
Mr. Ojeda had written:  
These are usually things that the elected officials don’t want the citizens to see!” Well ... come Tuesday, remember how my opponent has been charging the Logan County commission a consulting fee for years to the tune of $2,500.00 a month.
Then, the Washington Post ran this feature a few days ago on Jim Justice, the Democratic nominee for governor of West Virginia.  The headline is "West Virginia Governor Hopeful Has Left a Trail of Unpaid Fines and Bills."  Here's an excerpt from  Steve Mufson's story, which ran in the business pages:  
Jim Justice — a colorful 65-year-old coal-mining baron and owner of the famed 710-room Greenbrier hotel — solidly defeated two rivals this month to win the Democratic primary for governor, putting him on a path to likely victory in November, according to polls. Justice, who has never held office, spent lavishly on his campaign, including an election-night party at the Greenbrier featuring ham biscuits and shrimp cocktails. In a state that has lost almost half its 42,600 mining jobs over the past year, Justice has vowed to create jobs and bring mining back.
Justice, whose wealth Forbes magazine puts at $1.6 billion, was formerly a Republican.  He is said to have left a trail of "unpaid fines to federal coal regulators, unpaid bills to suppliers, and unpaid taxes to state and local governments throughout the region"--all said to total millions.  The reporter quotes the clerk of Harlan County, Kentucky (home of Justified) who says one of Justice's companies, Sequoia Energy, owes the county more than $650K in back taxes.  

All of this information and the image it creates was already reminding me of Trump, and then I read this segment  quoting West Virginia University law professor Patrick McGinley, referring specifically to Justice's purchase of the Greenbriar:
West Virginians, most of whom couldn’t afford to stay there, saw it as something that stood out and was positive.  
Mufson continues with more descriptions that, for me, are evocative of Trump--and at the end, expressly making the Justice-Trump comparison:
A campaign ad shows him in a hard hat telling a group of miners: “I believe in coal, guys. I really believe in coal.” The ad ends with an off-screen voice saying, “We need a coal man running this state.”
* * * 
In June of last year, Justice made a splash in West Virginia by saying he would hire about 200 miners at two sites in West Virginia. But around the same time, Justice closed two other sites in Virginia’s Tazewell County. 
“Like Donald Trump, he’s promised to bring coal-mining jobs back to West Virginia,” said McGinley, the law professor. And while that was unlikely, he said “people would like to believe those jobs are coming back, so they’re willing to place their faith in somebody who makes a promise of that kind.”
Meanwhile, speaking of coal, The Daily Yonder ran this today regarding an initiative for a just transition from a coal economy in Appalachia:  "A Homestead Act for Appalachia. To restore Appalachia, reconnect the region's greatest resources -- land and people. There's no better time than the present."

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