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A grab bag of news from Charleston

When I write this column every week, I usually plan to cover a multitude of topics, but only end up going on for paragraphs about one thing. This time it’s going to be a bit of a grab bag.

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First, a correction needs to be made. In last week’s column (some people call this an article even though it appears on the opinion page) I said that no version of what is now being called the Fairness Act has made it out of legislative committee.

I was wrong, and I’m glad I was wrong, because I knew one version had passed the state Senate, but couldn’t find it. Whether it’s called the Fairness Act or the Employment and Housing Nondiscrimination Act or whatever, the Legislature’s website doesn’t always classify it the same way. In my searching, I missed it.

Last week, Delegate Andrew Robinson, D-Kanawha, reminded me that a bill to add sexual orientation did pass the Senate in 2008. It was Senate Bill 600, whose lead sponsor was former state senator Brooks McCabe of Kanawha County. The bill passed the Senate and even made it out of the House Judiciary Committee before being placed on the House inactive calendar.

So, the Fairness Act has gotten out of committee before. Can it do it again? That remains to be seen. But I do want to say thanks to those who reached out to me and thanked me for trying to explain the bill.

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There is some polling out showing Gov. Jim Justice still leading his other three opponents in the Republican primary for governor, though I’m unsure any polling is really telling the true story right now.

The Justice campaign sent out some vague internal polling numbers to supporters last week. It showed Justice leading businessman and former Commerce Department secretary Woody Thrasher by 21 points, though it doesn’t tell you what the actual percentages are.

It also appears to show Justice 30 points ahead of any of the four Democratic Party challengers, though again doesn’t give you any actual numbers or tell you who ranked second. It also doesn’t appear to poll any unaffiliated voters.

The MetroNews West Virginia Poll came out last Thursday and it has some actual numbers for the Republican primary. It shows Justice with 56 percent, Thrasher with 21 percent, and former Berkeley County delegate Mike Folk with 11 percent. Since the August West Virginia Poll, Justice has improved by three points, Thrasher by two points, and Folk has dropped a point. There’s also fewer voters in the unsure category, dropping from 17 percent in August to 12 percent in the December poll.

What does it mean? Not much. It shows that Justice has a higher name recognition than the others. It shows Thrasher’s name recognition continuing to climb. As a Twitter follower told me, he’s not even thinking about this race yet. I imagine most West Virginians are not as well. This race won’t heat up until closer to May.

How about polling on the Democratic primary for governor? Of those polled, 42.3 percent have no idea who they would vote for, with the four candidates not breaking out of the teens.

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It appears that Democratic candidate for governor Stephen Smith has developed a couple of platforms (with help from “the people”), including a Workers Bill of Rights. Ideas include eliminating Right to Work, reinstating prevailing wage on state projects, collective bargaining for public workers and teachers, and other pro-union bullet points.

Someone might want to let the unions know about Smith’s platform, because it appears the early union endorsements are going to Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango. The endorsements include the South Charleston Professional Firefighters Local 837 and the Upper Ohio Valley Building Trades. I fully expect an AFT-WV endorsement in Salango’s future based on how much AFT-WV President Fred Albert retweets him.

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Speaking of Salango, The Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C., reported last week that Grant Herring, communications director for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., will be joining the Salango campaign.

Herring was the communications director for Justice’s 2016 campaign when he won the Democratic nomination and the general election for governor against former Republican Senate President Bill Cole.

Herring then became the press secretary for the governor’s office until Justice switched to the Republican Party in August 2017. He then joined Manchin’s U.S. Senate re-election team as communications director. After a brief stint helping a candidate run for governor in Kentucky, Herring joined Manchin’s D.C. office staff around the time he was considering another run for governor.

By Herring joining the Salango campaign, it confirms what I’ve long known: Salango is Manchin’s candidate. As such, a lot of doors are going to open for Salango that won’t open for the other three candidates — Smith, state Sen. Ron Stollings, and former county economic development official Jody Murphy.

I’d be really curious to know who came in second to Justice in that one internal poll question comparing him to the Democratic field.

(Adams is the state government reporter for Ogden Newspapers. He can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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