Gov. Jim Justice is likely giving thanks right now with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., planning to retire at the end of his 2024 term and spending the next several months on a tour of the U.S. to find himself.
Justice also is thankful, I’m sure, to have another poll showing him with a far-and-away lead in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate next year.
According to a poll by Mark Blankenship Enterprises, a long-time Republican-leaning polling firm in the state, 61% of Republican and independent respondents said they would vote for Justice while 28% said they would support U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney and 11% were undecided.
The poll, first reported by WV MetroNews, is not terribly different from other polls on this race since the beginning of 2023. Justice has dominated in every primary poll, even despite a flurry of negative headlines about Justice’s family business and several administration controversies.
Other than a pending House Ethics Committee investigation and his prior life as a Maryland lawmaker and GOP official, there are not that many negatives against Mooney unless you think he is too far to the right for you. Plus, he had a crushing victory in the 2022 Republican primary for the new 2nd Congressional District, defeating former 1st District Congressman David McKinley.
It’s not like people either don’t know or don’t have access to information regarding Justice’s potential issues. They came up in 2016 during his first Democratic campaign for governor of West Virginia, and they came up again in 2020 when Justice ran for re-election as a Republican.
Much like Justice was recruited in 2016 because of his similarity to Donald Trump, Justice has some of the same political luck. Both could be convicted in a court of law and still will likely win elections. Of course, Trump is under criminal prosecution while Justice is not. But certainly, Justice is under intense legal scrutiny in private lawsuits.
We’re less than a year out from the November 2024 general election. The candidate filing period doesn’t begin until January and we are seven months away from the May primary. Plenty of surprises can drop between now and those key dates. Don’t expect Mooney to drop, but it’s going to be a tough slog.
Interesting theory: Could Manchin switch to independent, do his tour to test the waters of an independent presidential run, decide against it, then do an independent write-in campaign to get on the November ballot in West Virginia for U.S. Senate?
If Justice is the Republican nominee and the Democrats don’t have a strong candidate, an independent U.S. Senate run by Manchin could be successful. Former Connecticut U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman did it in the last decade after losing a Democratic primary and coming back as an independent.
I’m not saying Manchin will do this. Lord knows I have no special insight into Manchin’s brain and thinking. But it’s food for thought while you’re eating your Thanksgiving dinners this week.
If I was Secretary of State Mac Warner, one of the top four Republican candidates for governor, I’d be annoyed if my brother decided to announce a run for my current job the same day I’m participating in a gubernatorial forum on MetroNews.
But state Economic Development Authority Director Kris Warner is set to kick off a race for Secretary of State on Dec. 7, the same day that Hoppy Kercheval is hosting the top four GOP candidates for governor, including Mac Warner, in a forum.
I also have to imagine there may be some concern about having two Warners on the same primary ballot. That could create some confusion with voters unsure about which Warner they are voting for. Having Kris Warner running for Secretary of State while brother Mac Warner is Secretary of State also has its own issues, which Secretary Warner tried to get in front of last week.
“As the state’s chief election officer I have sworn an oath to uphold West Virginia election laws. While I wish my family members the best in all they do, I will remain focused on the duties and obligations of the Secretary of State’s Office,” Mac Warner said in a statement. “Impartiality of election officials is necessary to hold confidence in election results and our Republic and this is no different.”
“In my capacity as a candidate, I am totally focused on my campaign alone and I will not be involved in any other candidate’s campaign,” Mac Warner continued. “My campaign to move West Virginia forward as governor is, and will remain, separate and distinct from any possible campaigns of those in my family.”
Finally, a note to communications people in state government: You all wouldn’t have to do so much damage control regarding stories we in the media publish if only you would work with us when we come to you with questions for stories. Or be more responsive to both reporters and even elected officials.
I’ve seen department and agency responses to stories and even state audits that have been just outright terrible, then see those same departments and agencies try to walk back information or try to spin. I get it. I’m a former government communications person myself (though I never did do the spin game. I preferred to answer reporter questions within 30 minutes of the request, even if just to say I don’t know).
But seriously. Don’t duck us, don’t ask us to submit questions beforehand for review, don’t pre-screen us. Work with us, because our job is not to “get” you. Our job is to provide accurate information. We can’t do that if you don’t answer questions.