By VIC SPROUSE
CHARLESTON -- I predicted it months ago ... well, wait, saying I predicted it is like saying I predict Ohio State winning the National Championship: me and every other Tom, Dick and Harry has.
But, I did predict J.D. Beane would be named Judge in Wood County.
Where is the outrage?
Can you imagine Cecil Underwood "holding" a judgeship for a year so that he can appoint a friend and member of the Legislature AFTER the election to insure his party would continue to hold onto the seat?
Even the Wood County Democrats were fuming over this overt political maneuver by the Manchin administration.
The administration flat out lied to every other candidate, the media, fellow Democrats in Wood County, and pretty much everyone else who had an interest in the position and saying the process was "still ongoing." They maintainted this position even when everyone -- everyone -- knew he was going to choose Beane immediately after the election.
First, let me say this. J.D. is a good guy. In all my dealings with him, he has been a stand-up individual and I think he will end up making a good judge.
The WAY this was done stinks. It stinks to high heaven.
I don't believe the Charleston Gazette has even commented other than maybe one mention in Kabler's political column.
Wait ... maybe I should lay out the basic story here.
A judgeship comes open in Wood County, and Manchin is responsible for appointing a new person to fill the vacancy. Multiple people apply including current Democratic Delegate J.D. Beane. And, the Governor picks Beane to be the new judge.
So, what's the problem, right?
If the Gov likes J.D., as we all know he does, what's the problem with appointing him if Beane is qualified?
Well, the problem here is this position was held for a year awaiting J.D.'s arrival.
And, why was it held for a year? Well, because J.D. is the only Democrat who can win a Legislative seat in Wood County. Had J.D. given up his seat in the House, most likely the Democrats would have lost that seat. In essence, the Governor chose to allow the court system to twiddle it's thumbs until J.D. won his House seat.
So, now, J.D. gets to be a Judge, the Democrats get to hold the seat until November 2008, and everyone is happy, right?
The people most peeved? Well, it's a toss-up between the Wood County Democrats and all those people in Wood County who saw their cases delayed strictly for political purposes.
The Wood County Democrats are mad because they had their own people they wanted to fill the Judgeship and they certainly didn't think it was right to "hold" the Judgeship for a year simply to anoint J.D.
The people who had their cases delayed, well, they were mad because their cases were delayed. Most probably didn't realize it was being delayed so they could hold it for a person who was running to supposedly represent them in the Legislature, knowing full well he would immediately resign and assume the new position (while other Democrats in Wood County assumed a different position).
People tell me all the time, "Vic, why do you let this stuff upset you, it's been going on for decades and it certainly isn't going to stop anytime soon."
Well, what irritates me is the double standard.
I vividly remember serving as Minority Leader in the Underwood administration.
The Gazette served Underwood a daily dose of venom. The Gazette would go berserk over anything coming out of the administration. They ripped every appointee Underwood brought forward.
If you were getting appointed to any board, commission or rural outpost in the Underwood Administration, the Gazette would provide an newspaper sponsored enema that included whether or not you ever spoke with someone who had any relative who may have either worked in a coal mine or visited the Exhibition Mine in Beckley.
The way the Gazette figures it, if you've visited the Exhibition Mine, then you must be in the pocket of Big Coal, and if you were, then that should certainly disqualify you from serving on the Board of Acupuncture.
But, Manchin can do as he pleases because the Gazette brass loves him.
Don't get me wrong, the Gazette reporters are good. They do their job. But, no one can look me in the eye and tell me they haven't been, in not so many words, told to take it easy on Manchin. There is simply no other explanation. And, if the reporters haven't given him a break, the silence that fills the Gazette editorial page is striking.
Can you imagine a DEP or Mine Safety leader in the Underwood administration serving up the debacle that was the Sago mine report and not being skewered on a daily basis in the Gazette? In any other administration, the editorial board of the Gazette would have shown their bloodlust by demanding the head of Ron Wooten (the current state Mine Safety Chief) and pretty much anyone associated with the report.
But, what do we get from the Gazette? A softball editorial that chides the administration for not doing so great a job.
And, complete silence when a judicial circuit is put on hold for a year so the Governor can get his man and protect his party's legislative post in the process.
Sprouse has served in the Legislature since 1995 and resides in Charleston. He graduated from Penn State University with a Chemical Engineering degree and currently owns and operates several fitness centers in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.