CHARLESTON – For the first time since 1933, a Republican is West Virginia’s attorney general.
Patrick Morrisey was sworn-in Jan. 14, more than two months after he defeated longtime AG Darrell McGraw in the general election. Morrisey, of Harpers Ferry in the state’s Eastern Panhandle, is the first Republican AG since Howard Lee.
He’s also the state’s first new attorney general in 20 years. McGraw was first elected in 1992, becoming the 15th Democratic attorney general in a row.
“I’m honored and humbled to serve as your next attorney general and pledge that I will carry out the duties of this office in a transparent and ethical manner,” Morrisey said in a statement.
“I intend to adhere to the oath of office I took and will passionately defend the Constitution of the State of West Virginia and the Constitution of the United States of America.”
Morrisey named several of the key members of his staff the previous week, vowing not to stay “behind the scenes.”
“I plan to be right in there, rolling up my sleeves and putting my imprint on matters,” he said.
Among his hirings as Dan Greear, a Charleston attorney who lost the 2008 election to McGraw by a few thousand votes, as chief counsel.
During his campaign, Morrisey introduced a 17-part strategy for his first 100 days in office. Many of those measures appear to be in response to McGraw’s policies.
Morrisey plans to eliminate trinkets with the Attorney General’s name on them, send settlement funds back to the state Legislature and use competitive bidding for hiring outside counsel.
McGraw drew criticism during his tenure for his practice of hiring private lawyers on a contingency fee to file lawsuits on behalf of the state against corporations. In many instances, the lawyers he hired were campaign contributors of his.
He also used his Consumer Protection Fund, filled with settlement monies, for consumer awareness efforts that his critics said were essentially taxpayer-funded campaigning.
But McGraw also drew praise from consumer groups that applauded his efforts against businesses.
Morrisey’s plan is more centered on fighting the federal government. He stated taking on the Environmental Protection Agency as one of his 17 plans.
“We have a bold vision for what the Office of Attorney General can do to protect jobs and consumers in this state, improve West Virginia’s business and legal climate and advance ethics reforms,” he said.
“We will work every day to make West Virginians proud.”