Partisanship supposed to be out of judicial race

October 14, 2018

Sometimes one wonders just how much difference regulations make. As many often say, it occasionally appears a certain law applies to two or three people but no more. Consistency is not a normal quality in West Virginia.

I harped for weeks here about Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins’ holding onto his partisan congressional position while a candidate for nonpartisan Supreme Court. Canon 4 appears to clearly rule out such, but Jenkins served the dual roles anyway.

Now, at the Pumpkin Festival in Milton, the clearly identified Republican booth sported a bright “Tim Armstead for Supreme Court” sign up front. Read Canon 4. There is to be no commingling of a partisan campaign with a non-partisan one. But what the hell; it’s just a rule, and Supreme Court justices are the ultimate arbitrators.

Armstead is an honorable man who would not intentionally break the law. I assume some overzealous volunteer did. But it was wrong.

The code says, “Judge or candidate for Judicial Office shall not engage in political or campaign activity that is inconsistent with the independence, integrity or impartiality of the judiciary.”

So, it surprised someone when Jenkins, apparently continuing to operate under the most ethical standards employed recently by the high court, refused to recuse himself from a natural gas case he had clearly been involved in? Look at it this way: If a man sees no conflict in serving as a Republican congressman while being a nonpartisan candidate for Supreme Court, when is he ever going to see a conflict?

Count this up as a losing argument for me — and I understand why. Teachers and public employees jump straight-legged when Senate President Mitch Carmichael or any Republican legislator claims a role in passage of pay raises. But here’s the fact:

Republicans have wide control of both the House and Senate. If Republican leadership were hell-bent on stopping pay raises, they had the votes to do it.

While nobody played the public relations game and milked the cameras on pay raises as well as Sen. Richard Ojeda (remember his 90-milean-hour drive to the Capitol to make a protest march), Carmichael honestly deserves more credit that any Democrat for moving that bill.

Retired Cabell Circuit Judge Dan O’Hanlon is sitting in temporarily for Circuit Judge Paul Farrell, who was assigned temporarily to the Supreme Court due to the current shortage. Sitting at one of the world’s favorite watering holes, O’Hanlon was asked if he would be remodeling the quarters he acquired at the courthouse. With only a wisp of a smile, I answered for him, “It’s coming in at a little less than $3 million,” while the Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti House crowd roared. Outlandish remodeling expenditures were the downfall of some at the Supreme Court justices. They will not be a problem for the level-headed O’Hanlon.

It seems Democrat political expect Nate Silver is still not keeping with Sen. Richard Ojeda’s “bounce” in the 3rd District Congressional race. This week, Silver has Republican Del. Carol Miller as a 91.2 to 8.8 percent favorite. He puts the lead today at 56-44 percent.

I wrote months ago about Charleston’s mayoral race. For the first time in two decades, the capital city will have a new occupant of the mayor’s office. Both Democrat Amy Shuler Goodwin and Republican J.B. Akers have run tough campaigns. Sometimes, though, I wonder who gives the candidates advice. A recent Akers mailer touted his support from the city emergency services unions. Then, an eagle-eyed consultant (or union voter) would surely see that the card itself was printed and mailed by a non-union shop. Effective? Sitting on top of the proverbial fence? Maybe.

Daniel Lutz, the Mountain Party candidate for 2nd District of Congress, certainly adds interest. Since he has not been able to get Maryland’s favorite son, Republican WV Rep. Alex Mooney, and his challenger Democrat Talley Sergent to debate him in the Eastern Panhandle district, he has now publicly challenged them to a debate in Frederick, Maryland.

Mooney, who was a state legislator in Maryland before moving to West Virginia to run for Congress, will likely feel more at home in Frederick, Lutz explained.

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

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