Ron Gregory: State Senate’s 7th District attracting attention

May 11, 2019

Former Logan House of Delegates member Rupie Phillips, a Democrat-turned-Republican, says he will likely follow through on his original pre-filing and run for the District 7 state Senate seat next year.

That’s the seat currently held by Democrat Paul Hardesty after the resignation of elected Democrat Sen. Richard Ojeda.

Phillips gave current Republican Rep. Carol Miller quite a race for the GOP congressional nomination in 2018. He was the surprise second place finisher in a crowded field.

Phillips says all that would prevent him from running would be if Hardesty switched party affiliation to the GOP. There have been rumors of that happening.

Former Logan County Commissioner Art Kirkendoll, a Democrat who held the Senate seat before Ojeda, is also considering seeking it again.

State Sen. Bob Plymale’s term expires next year as well. The Wayne County Democrat’s pre-candidacy filing lists “undeclared,” meaning he is apparently considering a run for a different office.

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We’ve mentioned before that when Republicans consider future gubernatorial prospects, the elephant in the room (Pun intended: Republican. Elephant. Get it?) is the chance that West Virginia may lose a congressional seat after the 2020, census. That would set up some interesting dynamics past 2020 when incumbent Gov. Jim Justice will be a prohibitive favorite.

If West Virginia loses a congressional seat, realignment of the then-two congressional districts will become a political hot potato. Legislators will try to keep their two favorite Republicans in office.

Those maneuvers mean some potential gubernatorial candidate(s) will emerge, including whoever is shut out of a congressional seat.

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Social media has spurred the ability for those who like to criticize without accepting responsibility to spout their distortions and dislike for others.

Recently, one Huntington site has included disparaging remarks about elected officials. The posters say some officials will not return phone calls or answer questions in person. Other attacks on public figures are often more vicious - and personal.

I have always chuckled when folks who disagree with me say I’m “hiding behind a keyboard.” I haven’t written anything in my life anonymously, so I’m not hiding. Those who criticize on social media should come out to government meetings and speak with their elected officials. They might find that more is being done to their liking than they thought.

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Speaking of attending government meetings, Andy Prutsok of the Miles City Star in Montana penned an article of local interest. Prutsok. who once lived in Summersville and worked for the News Leader weekly paper in Richwood, maintains that the loss of community newspapers costs residents. He says studies show that taxes are raised higher in towns with no paper. Further, he says, closing down local papers often rips the heart out of a community’s economic base.

Prutsok uses Richwood as an example of his theory. He focuses, of course, on the 2016 flood recovery FEMA funding that is lost, strayed or stolen. We’ve talked about the entire flood debacle for nearly two years here. Early on, my primary fear was that Nicholas County leaders would use this natural disaster to consolidate Richwood schools to Summersville. Now, as regular readers know, it has gone far beyond that.

A state auditor’s report SEEMS to say money is missing. Prutsok refers to that in noting that the News Leader shut down in the late 1990s. The only current Richwood news outlet is the online Richwood Leader. It provides little coverage of routine city government functions.

There’s no doubt the town is a shell of its former self. My second newspaper job, in 1970, was at the News Leader’s “sister” paper, The West Virginia Hillbilly. Richwood was bustling then; it’s virtually stopped in its tracks now. After fully digesting the auditor’s report, I am not at all sure any money is “missing,” as we all believed. Terrible accounting practices and an effort to take care of friends and relatives may explain it all.

But I agree with Prutsok and commend his article to you. People like to denounce the local paper, daily or weekly, as a “rag” when it prints truth they don’t like. But a town without a newspaper often lets government operate with no checks and balances. And a town without a newspaper loses some of the community spirit that makes it unique.

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