Reporter’s Notebook: Political Potpourri
Are you tired of hearing about the governor’s race? Me too, but I’ll have some tidbits in this column if you keep reading. Instead, I thought I’d try to handicap the races from Board of Public Works.
The Board of Public Works includes the governor, the secretary of state, the attorney general, the state auditor, the state treasurer and the agriculture commissioner. It also includes the state superintendent of schools, but as that job is not on a ballot selected by voters, we can set it aside.
Admittedly, it’s hard to handicap these races as there are few precandidates raising money to run for these statewide elected offices.
The easy one to talk about is the race for state treasurer. Democrat John Perdue is seeking his seventh term. The Boone County native is already the longest-serving state treasurer and the only Democrat left on the Board of Public Works.
The only Republican precandidate listed as a potential challenger is Riley Moore, the former Jefferson County Republican member of the House of Delegate who almost became the majority leader before being ousted in the anti-Rockwool wave that also sent fellow a Republican delegate from Jefferson County, Jill Upson, packing.
Since Perdue only announced his intentions to seek re-election nearly two weeks ago, he has yet to show any campaign finance numbers in the secretary of state’s campaign finance reporting system. Moore, the grandson of former Gov. Arch Moore, has more than $38,000 in cash on hand, raising more than $39,000 in donations.
But this isn’t Perdue’s first rodeo. He has built a statewide machine that has delivered him win after win. Even many of the employees in the state treasurer’s office have donated the maximum amount to Perdue’s past campaigns. Perdue has developed several programs that have proven to be popular, such as college scholarship savings programs and beefing up the unclaimed property division.
This also isn’t the first time in recent years that Perdue has been challenged. Former Republican state senator Mike Hall, with experience in investments, challenged Perdue in 2012 and lost. Ann Urling, a former banking executive in Charleston, challenged Perdue in 2016 and lost. Hall is now chief of staff to Gov. Jim Justice, with Urling as deputy chief of staff.
Is Perdue’s time up as state treasurer or is the seat his as long as he wants it? We’ll see.
Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt is presumed to be seeking re-election, though his precandidacy paperwork lists him as undeclared (often done in case you might seek a different office during the January filing period). I heard rumblings last year of interest in a run for governor but haven’t heard much about that since.
Leonhardt is sitting on nearly $51,000 of campaign cash on hand. The closest challenger with money in the bank is Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, with more than $2,400 in cash on hand.
Beach just started his third four-year term in the Senate after winning re-election by a 4 percent margin over his Republican challenger. He also is listed as an undeclared precandidate, likely in case he changes his mind.
Secretary of State Mac Warner has raised more than $64,000 for his re-election, with more than $24,000 of cash on hand. He is listed as undeclared as well and has two precandidate challengers who have raised no money.
Of interest is former Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. She served two terms starting in 2009, but was defeated by Warner by just a 2 percent margin. She also had a habit of running for other offices during her tenure. She ran in the special election for governor in 2010 and U.S. Senate in 2014, losing both times.
So, what is Tennant running for? It’s unclear since she filed as undeclared. She raised more than $4,300 so far as a precandidate. Is she thinking of trying for secretary of state again? Or is she thinking about running for the seat her husband, Erik Wells, once held in the state Senate because Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, might not seek re-election?
What about Attorney General Patrick Morrisey? He also filed as undeclared and appears to have raised no money as of yet. Samuel Petsonk, a Beckley attorney known for social justice causes, is running for attorney general and has raised more than $16,000 with $100 of cash on hand.
As for Auditor J.B. McCuskey, he is listed as seeking re-election for his seat, with nearly $22,000 in donations and nearly $17,000 in cash on hand. There are no other precandidates filing for the seat.
Some quick tidbits.
∫ Morning Consult lists Justice as the fifth most unpopular governor in the country according to its 2nd quarter rankings.
Justice had a 43 percent approval rating over the months of April, May and June, while his disapproval numbers also were at 43 percent. That’s a 7-point jump in Justice’s negatives and positives. The poll had a 2 percent margin of error and polled 4,067 Republicans, Democrats and independents.
∫ The campaign staff of Stephen Smith, a Democrat running for governor, has unionized. I’m not making that up. A campaign that could last only 10 months (he also hasn’t specifically filed precandidacy paperwork for governor, instead choosing undeclared). Add six months to the number if he gets passed the primary.
The collective bargaining agreement includes stipends for technology expenses (internet, cell phones) and health care, paid vacation and sick time, caps on number of hours worked and paid parental leave.