What now, for Hamrick and West Virginia Republicans?
No doubt Danny Hamrick is in a lot more trouble at home than he is in Charleston. His dilemma at the state capital could get worse, however.
Think about it this way: What happened the last time Republicans learned a powerful politician was involved in a relationship with an intern? If the name Bill Clinton comes to mind, you’re on the right track. Then-President Clinton was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives, then acquitted by the Senate, as a result of his carrying-on with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Last month, West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, revealed Delegate Hamrick, R-Harrison, had resigned from his post as chairman of the House Education Committee. Hanshaw noted he had requested the action. Initially, he explained only that a “personnel matter” was involved.
It became known quickly that an adult intern for the committee was involved. Hanshaw said the relationship between her and Hamrick was consensual.
Hamrick, 31, played the matter down. “I equate this relationship to have been no more than a mutual high school crush.” At least he didn’t debate the meaning of the word “is.”
No House of Delegates policies were violated, Hamrick insisted. Hanshaw disagreed. There are policies banning such relationships, he said. Both lawmakers and House staff, including interns, are told “they are not to have relationships,” he said.
Well, you ask, what kind of relationship was there between Hamrick and the unidentified intern? No one is saying, at least for now.
Hamrick, of Clarksburg, is married, however. One suspects his wife’s reaction to the news was somewhat less restrained than Hanshaw’s.
Should delegates take additional action? Hanshaw’s options are limited. He already has removed Hamrick as chairman of the education panel, which will play a crucial role in the upcoming special session on public schools. Hamrick also could be taken off the three other committees on which he serves. One is the Political Subdivisions panel, chaired by Del. Erikka Storch, R-Ohio. The second is the Technology and Infrastructure Committee. Third — wait for it — is the House Rules Committee.
But the state constitution gives legislators the authority to punish members “for disorderly behavior …” Hamrick could even be expelled, should two-thirds of the House’s 100 members vote to do that.
No one has suggested action that drastic. Hamrick has become a liability to Republican legislators, however. It is not difficult to imagine the use to which some Democrats would have put information about his misbehavior, especially during the special session. Will they make him an issue anyway? Will someone in the House demand a vote on expulsion? We’ll have to wait and see.
One option is to simply wait until next year to see what voters in his district think of Hamrick’s activities. A test of that could come during the GOP primary election next spring.
Should Hamrick run and prevail in that, then advance to the 2020 general election, a big door opens for Democrats to pick up a House seat.
Hamrick’s district includes Harrison County and a tiny corner of Taylor. Four delegates represent the district. One of them is House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, who led polling in last year’s election, with 11,954 votes. Second was Republican Ben Queen, at 11,644. Hamrick was third, at 10,664, with Republican Terry Waxman fourth, at 10,246.
But placing fifth, out of the money, so to speak, was Democrat Richard J. Iaquinta, with 10,004 votes. It would take fewer than 350 voters deciding to vote for a Democrat rather than a Republican delegate to send Hamrick home and put Iaquinta in his place. And, by the way, registered Democrats outnumber Republican in Harrison County by more than 4,600.
What happens now? Good question. The answer may have more to do with Hamrick’s home life than politics.
Mike Myer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.