Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

Charlottesville Gazette-Mail. May 24, 2022.

Editorial: WV GOP can’t argue facts in Kiessling case

West Virginia GOP operatives, like Greg Thomas, can complain about timing in the state Senate District 8 Republican primary all they like.

Thomas, Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, and Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, among others, have noisily expressed their displeasure with Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom and the West Virginia Supreme Court for ruling their preferred candidate, Andrea Garrett Kiessling, ineligible after early voting had started.

Thomas complained about it yet again in an op-ed published Tuesday by the Gazette-Mail.

Thomas never mentioned that Kiessling was ruled ineligible because she didn’t meet the state’s residency requirement, which says state Senate candidates must have lived in West Virginia for at least the past five years before election to office. Kiessling, as has been well-documented at this point, lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, until at least 2020.

But Thomas and his compadres who have cried foul aren’t interested in this point, because it’s inconvenient.

Instead, they claim it isn’t fair that no one found out that Kiessling was ineligible until so late in the race. They vow to create new laws that prohibit challenging a candidate’s eligibility by a certain time in an election cycle. This, they claim, is the solution to the so-called voter disenfranchisement the courts have created.

So, that’s the real problem? That it happened so late? Yes, it must be that, and not that state Republicans tried to pull a fast one and are sore that they got caught.

Maybe they didn’t know Kiessling was ineligible. Then again, in his op-ed, Thomas talked about all the research Republicans had done on the race and had, perhaps, come to the conclusion that their seemingly previously preferred candidate, Joshua Higginbotham, “had no chance of winning in the fall.”

“Perhaps, the Republicans did seek counsel and advice,” he added.

If they did all of that, it would seem likely they knew Kiessling didn’t meet the residency requirement and went ahead with it anyway, figuring the rules didn’t apply to them and they’d get away with it. Or, perhaps, the “counsel and advice” they followed was just that bad.

Throughout this entire affair, GOP legislators and operatives have tried to argue all sorts of things, from Bloom being a “judicial activist,” to arguing that the Supreme Court, stacked with conservatives, mishandled the case, before finally settling on the argument that the lawsuit ending Kiessling’s candidacy came too late in the process.

They’ve never argued that Kiessling met eligibility requirements to run for office.

They can’t argue the facts, so they’re arguing that it’s unfair the whole thing fell apart so close to the election, while spitting venom at the judicial system for upholding the law — and the news media for reporting on it, just for good measure. Instead of promising to fix the system so this doesn’t happen again, the GOP likely will aim to pass legislation limiting when eligibility can be challenged.

No doubt, some early votes were cast for Kiessling, and she probably got some at the polls. Even though she was disqualified, the action came too late to take her name off the ballot. So, yes, some voters might be disenfranchised in that respect. But that’s not the courts’ fault, nor is it the fault of the Kanawha County resident who filed the lawsuit challenging Kiessling’s eligibility. Kiessling never should have been on the ballot, and, at some point in the process, that could and should have been prevented.

That’s what needs to be addressed in a thorough and meaningful way. It seems doubtful the West Virginia Republican Party will follow any counsel or advice in that direction, though.

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Parkersburg News and Sentinel. May 25, 2022.

Editorial: Millennials: W.Va. paying the price of backward thinking

West Virginia’s population problem has been on the minds of responsible lawmakers and public officials for quite some time. Those folks are, however, repeatedly hamstrung by a small but vocal group who would love nothing more than to drive the state backward — whatever the cost.

Consequences of such thinking include the Mountain State having the fourth oldest population in the country; and one that is rapidly shrinking. For that reduction in population we have paid a terrible price in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, WalletHub’s “2022’s Best and Worst States for Millennials” report shows West Virginia is a miserable 50th in the nation, ahead of only our old friend Mississippi. We are 38th for education and health; 51st for quality of life; and 43rd for economic health. On the bright side, we are right in the middle of the pack at 24th for affordability — we’ve got the fourth-lowest housing costs in the nation.

Such a dismal performance on those metrics makes it clear why we are 50th in the nation for the percentage of our population who falls into the “millennials” category. (Defined by the survey as the approximately 80 million “mid-20s-to-early-40-somethings” across the country.)

Why would someone in his or her prime want to life in a place where the quality of life has been deemed the worst in the country?

Better yet, why aren’t our elected officials taking seriously the need to take real steps to improve that quality of life?

For too many, steadfast dedication to “the way things have always been” is really a desire to return to “the way we imagine things were 100 years ago.” Those people cannot be allowed to continue to succeed in preventing West Virginia from being the kind of place young people want to live and raise their families. To our detriment, they have slammed shut the gates to Almost Heaven; and report after report shows us how dearly we are paying.

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The Intelligencer. May 24, 2022.

Editorial: W.Va. In Need of Foster Famililes

Vulnerable children in West Virginia rely on a network of educators, law enforcement, social workers and bureaucrats to keep them as safe and healthy as possible. Another important part of that team are the foster families who offer those children shelter.

May is National Foster Care Month, and here in the Mountain State, the Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Social Services reports there are nearly 7,000 children in out-of-home care while Social Services works to help the rest of the family get the help and support they need.

“National Foster Care Month is not only a time to share the need for foster parents in West Virginia, but it is also an opportunity to highlight the hard work of DHHR staff and those who provide homes and stability for West Virginia youth,” said Jeff Pack, commissioner of the BSS. “We are thankful for all who join us in our mission to ensure child safety, permanency, and well-being through foster care and adoption.”

Sadly, the need here is greater than the number of foster families. May is a good chance then to assess whether you are in a position to join the ranks of those who serve as a lifeline for kids in desperate need of love and care they may not have received in quite some time.

It is not easy, and certainly not for everyone. But if you are willing and able, and believe that with the right training and support, you, too, could make a difference for some of these kids, contact Mission West Virginia at www.missionwv.org, or call 304-512-0555.

They need you.

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