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Several ex-lawmakers look to make comebacks

February 24, 2018

From former legislators trying to regain seats to spouses of statewide elected officials, the 2018 ballot features some intriguing House of Delegates contests.

In a chamber held by Republicans, 64-36, there is little hope for Democrats to reclaim the majority.

We’ll look at these races with a light brush to begin with. As the weeks roll by, we’ll examine some of them more intently.

Such ex-lawmakers as Democrats John Doyle and Doug Skaff are seeking comebacks. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mac Warner’s wife, Debbie, is vying for a Republican House nomination in Monongalia County.

District 1 should remain a Republican lock with incumbents Pat McGheehan and Mark Zatezalo heavily favored. Democrat Phillip Diserio should hold on to his 2nd District seat.

District 3 now has a Republican (Erikka Storch) and a Democrat (Shawn Fluharty). Although locals in Ohio County give GOP challenger Dalton Haas a shot at unseating Fluharty in the general election, that’s doubtful.

Two Democrats represent the 4th District but Mike Ferro is not seeking re-election. That leaves Joe Canestraro as a strong contender for re-election. Democrat Lisa Zukoff will likely hold the spot for the Dems by defeating Charlie Reynolds.

Democrat Dave Pethtel never has a problem with re-election and won’t this time either, as he will hold on in District 5. Republican William Romine is not seeking re-election in District 6, where Alex King will be the favorite to replace him. Democrat Chris Combs will challenge him.

District 7 is where Del. John Shott made Lissa Lucas, a Democrat, the First Amendment poster child. When Lucas attempted to recite public information at a hearing, Shott as chair of the meeting had her forcibly removed. She is challenging Republican Jason Harshbarger in what could well be a Democrat pick-up.

Republican Bill Anderson is safe in District 8, as Ray Hollen is in District 9. Frank Deem and John Kelly, Republicans, should hold onto their spots in District 10. Another Republican incumbent, Vernon Criss, is likely to remain although he will be closely challenged by Democrat Harry Deitzler.

The GOP incumbent, Rick Atkinson, is the favorite in District 11. In 12, Republican Steve Westfall should have no trouble. Meanwhile, in 13, incumbent Democrat Scott Brewer and Republican Joshua Higginbotham will be favored to return. Here, though, former Del. Scott Cadle, a Republican, will put up a major battle for a seat.

Republican Jim Butler should hang on in the 14th while GOP incumbent Geoff Foster has a lock on 15.

Cabell County’s 16th will be a jewel to watch. Two Republicans, Chuck Romine and Carol Miller, are not seeking re-election in the three-member district. That should make Democrat Sean Hornbuckle certain for re-election. Daniel Linville and John Mandt Jr. of hot dog fame are likely to replace the two current Republicans.

Next week, we’ll look at other house contests.

When tempers flared in the state Senate last week, eyeglasses were being removed and choice language was being spewed by some well-known deeply religious legislators.

It appeared that Republican Sen. Mike Azinger got the verbal melee started. After a swift adjournment that teed off Democrats and teachers on hand, Azinger approached Democrat Sen. Roman Prezioso with some choice criticism. Comments about a gambling bill had already frayed nerves. Prezioso did not take the matter lightly, rising to his feet.

Then Azinger encountered other senators who tried to calm him down. He would have none of it. Although Azinger denied it, many attested that he used profanity in criticizing his fellow senators.

Regardless, no fisticuffs occurred and decorum returned this week.

Legislating can be stressful.

Federal prosecutors in the Northern District have decided not to retry James Laurita Jr. in a case that alleged illegal campaign contributions were made. His first trial ended in a hung jury.

The case had intrigue because the presiding judge named the campaigns that would be discussed during the trial. They included those of U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Capito, Rep. David McKinley, former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and congressional candidates Rick Snuffer, Mike Oliverio, Sarah Minear and Spike Maynard.

Prosecutors emphasized that there is no evidence to conclude that any of the campaigns knew they were receiving questionable donations.

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