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Reporter’s Notebook: West Virginia political potpourri

With just over a week from the general election on Nov. 3, early voting has continued apace with lines and enthusiasm.

You still have until 5 p.m. Saturday to cast an early vote. You can still request an absentee ballot until Wednesday, Oct. 28. I don’t want to say it is too late to mail in an application to your local county clerk, but postmarks won’t cut it. If the application is not in the hands of your county clerk by Wednesday, you might be out of luck.

Again, if you want to vote absentee, get that application to your county clerk by Wednesday or apply online at GoVoteWV.com. Otherwise, you’ll have to vote in person on Election Day. Go to GoVoteWV.com to look at sample ballots or to find polling places.

If you’re still planning to vote early, be prepared for lines. By all accounts, these lines are not very long. Lines were long on day one of early voting because many people like to get their vote done and out of the way. I’m also told the last day of early voting tends to have long lines due to people waiting until the last minute. When I drove by the early voting site in downtown Charleston around lunch time, the line wasn’t that bad.

We really get too used to conveniences. Sure, voting should be easy, but before states started doing early voting waiting in line was the norm. It was a civic duty, so no one cared. But even before COVID-19, people largely complain about lines. I always had to stand in line for everything in school, but I guess lines are not a thing millennials know about.

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I wrote about the West Virginia Senate races and the effect of independent expenditures for the weekend newspapers last week.

If you had asked me eight months ago, I would have said the Republican Senate majority was in real trouble. With 20 Republicans and 14 Democratic senators, all they need to take is four seats. While Republican members of the House of Delegates largely didn’t rock the boat with various constituent groups the last two years, Senate Republicans have been unafraid to dive into education reform, tax reform and even the maelstrom of greyhound racing.

My thinking has changed, however. I’m reluctant to make any predictions as to specific races, but I suspect the Senate Republicans will pick up two new seats, the Senate Democrats will pick up two new seats, and the makeup stays the same, 20-14.

Good news for Senate Republicans? Not necessarily. Republican David “Bugs” Stover defeated state Sen. Sue Cline, R-Wyoming, in the June 9 GOP primary. Before becoming circuit clerk for Wyoming County, Stover was a public school teacher and largely campaigned against Cline due to her support of Republican education reform efforts, specifically charter schools. Stover has no Democratic opponent, so he has basically already won. Republican teacher Amy Grady, who defeated Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, looks like she will win easily.

Combine those two pick-ups with state Sen. Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, who isn’t up for re-election until 2022, and you’ll like have three reliable votes to block any potential anti-union legislation in 17-17 ties. Hamilton and state Sen. Kenny Mann, R-Monroe, were both reliable votes in 2019 against the education omnibus bills. Those votes often came down to 18-16 votes with Hamilton and Mann on the losing side with Senate Democrats.

Hamilton lost his friend Mann when he chose not to run for re-election, but he might get two new Republican votes to help him hold the line on any bill that might be considered harmful to trade unions or teacher unions.

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The rumors started flying last week that Carmichael, who is a lame duck in the Senate, might become the next chief of staff to Gov. Jim Justice.

I had two editors ask me about it. I hadn’t heard anything specific, and I had literally just talked with Chief of Staff Mike Hall the week before and hadn’t gotten the impression he was heading for the door.

I’m told the rumors started from a Facebook post from a former southern West Virginia journalist and off-and-on government official who now posts “articles” to his personal Facebook page. It only took 12 hours or so for Carmichael to post to Twitter that the rumors were just rumors.

“Rumor is in a 2nd Justice term, I would serve as (chief of staff),” Carmichael said. “This is news to both (Justice) and me. We meet often, but have never discussed it. I support our (governor) and his work. Yet, I love my role with Citynet. I’m focused on improving and enhancing broadband in our great state.”

The rumors of a Mike Hall retirement have been around for a while, so it’s not to say he’s probably not thinking about it. I suspect we may seem some changing of roles if Justice is re-elected. That’s not uncommon in a second term.

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

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