West Virginia

Reporter’s Notebook: West Virginia’s red wave | News, Sports, Jobs


A red wave may not have made landfall statewide after Tuesday’s midterm elections, but two states definitely saw that red wave: Florida and West Virginia.

In some ways, Tuesday’s unofficial election results were a win for both Gov. Jim Justice and the Republican-led West Virginia legislature.

It was a short-term victory for the judiciary, which could see that Amendment 2, which would have given lawmakers the power to exempt six categories of tangible personal property taxes on which counties and school systems rely, is leading to a major defeat would.

Justice was a notable member of a coalition of county and city leaders, teachers’ unions and a liberal advocacy group that used the state’s modern pulpit of barnstorming, live YouTube streams and media coverage “Budget” in its title opposing the change. There are many factors why Amendment 2 failed, such as: B. uninformed voters, frightened county workers, and a general distrust of centralized control in Charleston, but there is no doubt that the judiciary played a role in his defeat.

I said last week that if voters pass Amendment 2, the remaining three amendments are likely to be passed as well. The opposite of that is that the people who voted against Amendment 2 also voted against the other three amendments. In hindsight, putting all four amendments to the vote at once was probably a bad idea. It was information overload, although all four amendments were relatively easy.

But despite losing all four amendments, it was a fantastic night for Republicans in the Senate and House. That could very well mean a bad two years for the judiciary, so a short-term victory on the changes could be a long-term problem as the judiciary completes its remaining two years as governor.

I try not to make predictions, and when I do, I try to keep my predictions conservative. I had no way of estimating how well the Republicans would do in the House of Representatives since this was their first year with 100 single-member districts, but I knew they would take more than the 77 seats they had. But a 10-seat by 88-seat pickup truck is huge.

I thought Senate Republicans would get three or four more seats. I even scoffed at a Republican in the Senate leadership who predicted a seven-seat pickup truck. But that’s exactly what happened, taking them from 23 seats to 30 seats. The Democratic faction can now easily get a booth at Applebee’s when there are only four members left.

I spent most of my election night with Amendment 2 supporters in Charleston, where several lawmakers were. Sure, there was disappointment that the changes failed, but there was joy at Republican legislative gains. There was also a sense that lawmakers would avenge the loss of the changes by making the judiciary a lame duck for the next two years.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, told WV MetroNews Talkline host Hoppy Kercheval that Justice told him the reason he fought so hard against Amendment 2 was to get revenge on Senate Republicans, who blocked his 10 percent income tax cut. I have no idea if that’s true, but Tarr told Hoppy that apart from the budget bill, the judiciary can expect his legislative agenda to be blocked.

It is evident that Justice and his advisers are drawing on the successful vote against Amendment 2 and its general popularity as a hedge against future legislative opposition. Sure, justice is popular. So what? He is also limited to two terms and his second term is almost up.

Republicans now have the numbers to easily pass legislation without requiring a single Democratic vote. They have the numbers to override vetoes. They have the votes to pass bills in a single day. You have the votes to easily get yourself to special sessions without the governor.

Expect bills to end the COVID-19 state of emergency (finally), some form of tax reform, and if you think the $1 million report that came out late last week milquetoast recommendations for changes in the Department of Health and Human Resources satisfied the legislature’s desire to split DHHR in two, you’d be wrong. This bill is coming back, as are other reforms to its functioning.

The truth is that the Republican legislature has always been suspicious of the judiciary since switching from Democrat to Republican in the summer of 2017. That suspicion eased somewhat when Justice won the 2020 gubernatorial primary, and the COVID-19 pandemic put that suspicion on hold for a few years.

With Justice sinking not one but four constitutional amendments, with the personal attacks on Republican legislative leadership, with linking poor and poor with the National Education Association and local Democratic leaders during his Anti-Amendment 2 campaign, and with the Nose against state Republican party platform, Republican lawmakers are back in no-confidence mode.

I have no idea if Justice plans to run for the US Senate or any other office in West Virginia, but he definitely can’t run for a third straight term as governor. He will be gone, and many of the Republican legislative leaders he sniffed at will still be here for years to come. He will have to learn to sink or swim in this red wave.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at [email protected]




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