By VIC SPROUSE
CHARLESTON -- I have had my problems with Jeff Kessler from time to time. But, especially considering his potential opponents in the Democratic primary in 2012, he would make a good candidate for Governor.
Now, I can't help but be biased toward the Senators because I have worked with them for years, so I'll admit that.
But, my dealings with Jeff have been very positive even though we had some major bruhahas in Senate including a showdown over Logan's Law a few years back.
First, let me give my negatives toward Jeff.
Well, my reticence about him can be summed up in TWO WORDS.
"Trial" and "Lawyers."
Jeff will have no where else to turn but the trial lawyers for campaign cash in 2012.
By coming out early, I'm certain he is trying to line up that support.
The unions will go with John Perdue most likely.
The business community will continue to look for a candidate, but their concern over the trial lawyers influence on Jeff will give them pause.
The WVEA and AFT already are lining up behind Erik Wells. (That's a joke, of course)
Of all the Senators, with the exception of Erik Wells, I think Jeff would make the best Governor. I know that might sound crazy to people. But, he's fair. And, he's given business a fair shake in the Judiciary committee.
He hasn't been overly labor or overly trial lawyers while he was there. He's almost acted as a judge and/or moderator as Committee Chair.
Overall for the Democrats, I think Erik Wells would be their best choice. (Again, I know I'm sounding looney).
Looking at it strictly politically, Erik has a wide ranging popularity in multiple parts of the state. I'm sure Natalie won't let him run because she may want it for herself, but Erik strikes you as Gubernatorial. Natalie does not. Period.
Erik already has two huge swaths of the state where he will win, the Kanawha Valley and the Clarksburg-Morgantown area. That's powerful.
Jeff's biggest issue is he has little base from which to run.
Perdue has paid pretty much every Democratic hack known to man (I heard he hired Tom Vogel, former Democratic ED which cracked me up, I love knowing my taxdollars are paying Tom to prep John's 2012 run). He's paid off county commissioners and pretty much anyone willing to double dip and take taxpayer loot. The unions love him because they think he will simply do what they tell him.
Jeff doesn't have any of that.
In addition, Jeff has never been in a real campaign, even for Senate. He's not battled-tested (neither has John for that matter, but Erik and Natalie both have been). And, he will quickly find out that there is little gray on the campaign trial.
And, of course, let's be honest, his IQ differential over John Perdue has to be at least as big as North Carolina's halftime lead over Michigan State. (It's likely closer to WVU's football margin of victory against Rutgers a few years back, was it 81-0?).
Jeff does have a lot going for him. He is universally liked and respected in the Senate. If he can line up most of the Senators, he will have strong individuals in many communities throughout the state. The Senators can walk him into the major donors and supporters in the area will listen to their local Senators.
Most of the Senators know that John Perdue is simply not capable of being Governor. They've let him get away with this huge increase in his budget and hiring of political hacks to run his campaign for Governor using taxpayer loot simply because they figured he could do little damage there.
But, Jeff or Erik would be infinitely better than Perdue. Every Senator and I suspect most but the craziest House members know that as well.
That being said, all this has to make Shelley Capito smile.
When she looks at the other side of potential Democrat contenders (unless some rich dude comes out of the woodwork, a la Caperton), she has to feel pretty good about potential matchups with Jeff or John or Natalie or even Erik.
Sprouse is the former Minority Leader of the state Senate. He resides in Cross Lanes, and he currently owns a consulting company in Charleston.