By Ron Gregory
The new prison reporting date for Mingo Commissioner David Baisden is after the primary election in May. There is no way I think legendary District Court Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr would make a political decision on the bench, so I don’t join those who suspect something amiss.
The U.S. Attorney’s office did not dispute Baisden’s request to move the report date from April 4 to June 13. Copenhaver did what he would normally have done under the circumstances for any defendant and granted Baisden’s request. Copenhaver apparently had also seen evidence that Baisden must continue to receive radiation therapy until May, after which he will need time to recuperate.
While the report date has been extended, skeptics think it is political. Again, if you knew Judge Copenhaver, you wouldn’t think that. A Mingo County election would never interfere with his judgment. It simply didn’t happen. And I would dutifully tell you if I thought it did.
What may not be coincidental, however, is the sudden “need” to hire people to “clean up” Mingo County in the days leading up to the primary election. County commissioners, who may have heard from God on the issue as they so often do, voted to hire individuals to clean up trash around the county. Those hired can work up to 40 hours per week at $8 an hour and will be employed for “six to eight” weeks. That, amazingly enough, coincides with the election, where “election day workers” are normally only paid $75. Hmmm.
How many county commissioners are running for election in the primary? Oh, yeah … two.
… Let’s talk about abortion. Apparently, that’s the only thing state Republicans have on their agenda in 2014.
Months ago, I wrote that West Virginia Free, the pro-choice group, would do better politically to stick to their concerns about clean, safe drinking water. I still believe that.
Meanwhile, state Republicans are determined to blow any chance of taking control of any house of the legislature by hammering, harping on and placating those who see abortion as the major concern of West Virginians. They also are playing into the hands of alleged pro-life Democrats who are up for re-election to the legislature.
While abortion is a divisive issue, Democrats can still claim the high ground by pointing out that they are “pro-life” when seeking votes. In that regard, what makes them any different than Republicans who claim the same thing? While I will agree that most Republicans are more sincere in their beliefs, I don’t think the average voter notices that. The only thing accomplished by Republicans who take center stage with a pro-life stance is that they further alienate moderate state voters who do not agree with their position.
Surely any viable Republican will get the vote of right-to-lifers every time. Nobody needs to remind a staunch pro-life advocate what the GOP position is.
Regular readers know the history of 2014, so I will not go into detail here (editors, please note: no detail). A 20-week unborn baby protection bill was overwhelmingly passed by both houses of the legislature after Democrats tried every trick in the book to bury it. Their ace in the hole, er statehouse, was Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Although Tomblin has always campaigned as the pro-life candidate, he vetoed the bill.
Enter Republicans who fall for the Democrat bait. They rail; they rant; they storm about the veto. They pray for Tomblin, while implying — or, in some cases directly saying — that he is bound for the pits of hell.
Instead of talking about the state’s failing economy, the budget crisis, mishandling the water contamination in Charleston and a dozen other issues troubling West Virginians, the Republicans appear to be the crazed, right-wingers Democrats claim they are. Their behavior disturbs the average state voter, who doesn’t agree with the GOP position on abortion.
Free advice, then, to Republicans: you can criticize the governor for vetoing the baby bill but make that a background issue. Tell voters who are pro-life that you passed a pro-life bill and the governor vetoed it. Tell them Republicans will enact the bill again in 2015, particularly if they are in the majority in a house of the legislature. But stomp, stand and campaign on something else. Everyday voters will agree with the GOP on the economy, family values and many other issues. The house is simply divided on abortion.
Meanwhile, as noted, the Democrats have played a pretty good hand recently on the abortion issue. A majority voted for the pro-baby bill knowing the governor would rescue them by vetoing it. The national Democrats for Life have even issued strong statements condemning Tomblin and calling for a special legislative session to deal with the issue. Conveniently, they never mention that the Democrats are in the majority and could call a special session of the House with only 13 Democrat votes, if all 47 Republicans called for one as well.
Note to Republican legislative leaders: 47 Republicans are not going to sign on for a special abortion session. Not even close.
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