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Ron Gregory: Ojeda thought he could pick his replacement

January 26, 2019

Paul Hardesty is a powerful man.

He is also, in my humble but normally correct opinion, as honest as the day is long.

No wonder outgoing state Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, tried to withdraw his own resignation to keep Hardesty out of the Senate. After all, Sen. Roman Prezioso told the press, “Ojeda thought he’d have much more input into who replaced him than he did.”

In a single phone call, Hardesty could accomplish more than Ojeda ever could. In fact, Ojeda complained six months into office that his Senate predecessor, Art Kirkendoll, had more pull to get a road fixed than he did. That’s likely still true.

So, after losing the 3rd District congressional seat by 14 percent in November 2018, he immediately filed to run for U.S. president.

That makes no more sense than the recent Senate resignation. But it’s the Ojeda way.

Ojeda claims he decided to leave the Legislature early to devote full time to his presidential run.

He apparently felt he could maintain verbal warfare with Gov. Jim Justice and the entire Republican Party and still dictate who was appointed to replace him. Fortunately, that didn’t work out.

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Among the strong candidates hoping to replace Ojeda were Kirkendoll and former Mingo Delegate Harry Keith White. It is doubtful Ojeda would have been much happier with them than Hardesty.

Hardesty immediately did the right thing and shut down his lucrative lobbying business when Justice appointed him. Hardesty has said he will be a candidate for the Senate job in 2020.

Unlike Ojeda, who loves controversy, Hardesty will work cooperatively with his fellow legislators to benefit his district.

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With practically every Republican who ever dreamed of running for office considering a shot at governor in 2020, one observation is that their ambition at least causes them to be more out among the people.

From State Auditor J.B. McCuskey to Secretary of State Mac Warner, we routinely see video of the Board of Public Works statewide officials visiting businesses and civic groups around the state. Both McCuskey and Warner clearly would like to be governor.

If the public benefits by having more accessible public officials, that’s not a bad thing.

Warner was in Huntington this week visiting with a shared worksite development.

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I received a nice note from former Supreme Court Justice Menis Ketchum responding to last week’s comments in this space. Ketchum assured me that we remain friends.

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Mac Warner is not the first member of the family who yearned to be governor. In fact, his brother Monty was the GOP candidate for the top job in 2004. Monty eked out a tight win over Mingo County’s Dan Moore in the primary.

Winning the primary gave Warner the “opportunity” to be the sacrificial lamb challenging Democrat Joe Manchin in the general election, where he lost with Manchin getting a record-setting win in the fall.

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I have previously mentioned Lincoln County’s Delegate Zack Maynard, a Republican with an unlimited future. Maynard, of Harts, is now in his second term in the House of Delegates.

Among statehouse whispers are rumors that Maynard might choose to run for State Senate in 2020. He is also said to be considering jumping into a race to replace McCuskey, Warner or any other Republican who moves “up” to the governor’s race.

There’s lots of speculation, too, as to whether Democrat State Treasurer John Perdue will seek re-election.

Should Perdue retire, his assistant, Lincoln County Commissioner Josh Stowers, is the heir apparent for the Democratic nomination. Republican Ann Urling gave Perdue a tight race in 2016 and may deserve the GOP nod if she wants it.

Perdue is the last Democrat serving on the Board of Public Works.

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Interesting.

That’s what another 2020 primary election will be for Senate President Mitch Carmichael.

Mason County GOP Delegate Jim Butler says he plans to challenge Carmichael for his Senate seat. It will be a tough race.

While many Butler partisans will criticize Carmichael for not being conservative enough, the battle will give public employees and teachers who are still upset with Carmichael a place to go.

I’d call the prospective race a tossup.

Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185 or ronjgregory@gmail.com.

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