It’s frustrating to be a voter in Mingo County.
On the one hand, you have elected officeholders, who were the first choice of voters, caught scheming to pervert justice and to take advantage of their influence who are indicted, found guilty and sent to federal prisons throughout the Southeast.
On the other hand, you have elected officeholders, who are the first choice of primary election voters, who withdraw their names from the general election ballot, forcing the voters to settle for their second choice.
On the one hand, political observers never get bored studying Mingo County politics.
On the other hand, the voters of Mingo County must sit and wonder what they did to deserve the treatment they get at the hands of their politicians.
Of course, we’re talking about the situation foisted upon the county’s voters by their county clerk, “Big Jim” Hatfield, who ran for county commission in the primary election with two years left on his term as Mingo County clerk, defeated incumbent county commissioner Mike Carter, and now has had his name removed from the general election ballot, where he was unopposed in his race.
Hatfield asked the state Election Commission to allow him to withdraw from the race for county commission in November and the commission gave its consent.
Not that there is anything inherently wrong with Hatfield’s decision to abdicate his candidacy for the county commission in the general election, especially since he cites his age, 75; the toll that the three-hour round-trip from Gilbert, where he now lives, and back, is taking on his health; and the fact that he plans to move closer to the courthouse in Williamson, where he works, which will make it illegalfor him to serve on the Mingo County Commission.
It’s just that the voters will now see their choice of Democrats to run for the county commission in November replaced in a confusing process in which the candidate who replaces Hatfield must not be officially identified as a representative of any of the major political parties recognized in West Virginia.
The candidate or candidates chosen by this process may be a candidate that the voters would not have preferred to the incumbent, or even the incumbent himself, whom the voters did not pick since he was appointed to replace a commissioner who had to resign when he was charged by a federal grand jury with acts of official corruption.
On the other hand, the candidate who survives this process and is certified as the new county commissioner may be superior to either of the candidates who appeared on the primary ballot.
It’s just another example of the kind of convoluted politics that Mingo County voters have almost resigned themselves to.
Just when you think you’ve seen every political maneuver in the book, the politicians in Mingo County will pull one out of their hat that is guaranteed to amaze and astound you.
It’s almost as if they’re expected to.
Rest assured, however, it’s not.
It was bad enough when politicians waited until they had been elected to office before they became an embarrassment to their constituents.
Now they’re turning the electoral process itself into their own private three-ring circus.
Except no one is applauding.
They’re all hanging their heads in shame.