Reporter’s Notebook: ‘Tis the election season again

Much like Christmas seems to start before October even ends, the next election seems to start as soon as the last one ends.

The 2018 election was Nov. 6 and we’re just barely into December. Yet, people are either announcing their pre-candidacies or are starting to make the rounds across the state.

I’ve already written about Delegate Riley Moore, R-Jefferson, throwing his hat in the ring for state treasurer, a job held by Democrat “Big” John Perdue (The YouTube video for the “Big John Perdue” campaign song from when he ran for the Democratic nomination for the 2010 special election for governor is still online and is a must-watch).

Perdue has been state treasurer for 22 years, easily winning over Republican opponents. In 2012 he faced Mike Hall, Gov. Jim Justice’s chief of staff and a former state senator, and he faced Ann Urling, Justice’s deputy chief of staff, in 2016. The younger Moore might just give Perdue a challenge in 2020.

The next big announcement last week came from Stephen Noble Smith when he announced his run for governor. The former director of the WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, a group of non-profits working on anti-poverty initiatives, Smith has a vast network statewide already in place that can help him in 2020.

I know Stephen Smith and I like Stephen Smith. He used to be my neighbor when his organization moved into the home next to my apartment. He is a likeable guy, young, energetic, with a face that could rival John F. Kennedy’s. There is no doubt his group, working with other non-profits, have made great inroads into anti-poverty issues.

However, he has a lot of baggage too. It’s apparent based on his statements he plans to run from the far-left, which, if you haven’t noticed, doesn’t play well in West Virginia.

For example, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin would have lost had he not voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court. Liberal/progressives put on sackcloth and dumped ashes on their heads when he made that vote, but guaranteed it got him more votes than he lost. The majority of our Democrats are still blue-dog, the term used for conservative Democrats.

State Democratic Party leaders are going to have to come up with a plan to woo these voters back. Right now, they’re either voting for Republicans or they’re switching their registrations to unaffiliated or even Republican. I’m not sure that fielding candidates who appear to be the West Virginia versions of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is going to get the party much support.

Except for blue islands in Monongalia, Jefferson, Ohio, Kanawha and Cabell counties, if you ran as a liberal/progressive, you lost. Eventually, I predict as the state loses more residents either to other states or the pearly gates, you’ll see more gains by liberal/progressive candidates. We’re a long way from that though, so they need to work on their messaging to voters. Otherwise they’re just going to be written off as socialists.

Remember, Jim justice ran as a Democrat and beat former Republican Senate President Bill Cole by 7 percent. Justice also vastly outperformed former Democratic Senate President Jeff Kessler and former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, who both ran to Justice’s left.

Speaking of Goodwin, I’m told that he is considering a second run for governor. His wife, former tourism commissioner and communications professional Amy Shuler Goodwin, just won election as Charleston’s mayor. Goodwin also got involved this past election cycle, working with several political action committees to unseat Republicans.

Woody Thrasher, I hear, also is still exploring a run for governor. You’ll remember him as the former commerce secretary under Justice. This time last year he was the toast of West Virginia for negotiating a multi-billion-dollar deal with China Energy to invest in the state. A few months later, the blame was laid at his feet for commerce’s handling of disaster recovery dollars and he was forced to resign. He has laid low since then but could be plotting a comeback as a way to stick it to Justice.

As I’ve reported in this column space months ago, former secretary of state Natalie Tennant might also try once again after losing the Democratic nomination for governor in a special election in 2010.

Don’t expect Justice to run unopposed for the 2020 Republican primary for governor. There might be a lot of public praise for the governor, but behind-the-scenes there is still distrust of a guy who spent his first year trashing the Republicans only to join them when Democratic lawmakers revolted against him.

The name I keep hearing as a Republican challenger for Justice is U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. He has patriarchal status in the Republican Party and has been a successful congressman. He also knows that after 2020 West Virginia is going to lose a congressional district. The governor’s office is a brass ring, and if he can grab it, it would be a good way to close out a career in politics.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.