Patrick Morrisey, the Harpers Ferry Republican running to replace Darrell McGraw as state Attorney General, has rightly noted that "West Virginia ranks at the bottom of most major economic indicators in the country."

He attributes this unfortunate fact to our hostile business environment, which his opponent, the five-term incumbent, has played a role in creating. Morrisey promises, if elected, to "fight to turn the state's legal climate around and champion strong ethics reform."

An incumbent always has certain natural advantages over a challenger – name recognition, status, political connections, etc. In this particular election, however, our state's current legal climate and the questionable ethics of our present attorney general give Darrell "Quick Draw" McGraw certain unnatural advantages as well.

Conscious of the greater-than-usual imbalance in his opponent's favor, Morrisey says he's determined to ensure "that taxpayer monies are not used as an extension of the AG's campaign," citing "taxpayer-funded commercials touting the incumbent" and "the amount of time government employees spend in a campaign capacity" as two areas of particular concern.

A third unnatural advantage looms even larger: McGraw's willingness, to use funds his office has acquired through settlements to advance his candidacy with thinly veiled public benefits programs.

The latest is a series of "Save Our Homes" workshops to be conducted by McGraw's Consumer Protection Division, ostensibly to inform West Virginia homeowners of financial relief that may be available to them thanks to the attorney general's participation in a multi-state suit against mortgage companies.

Some $6 million of West Virginia's $33.8 million share of the settlement will finance mortgage-related programs like the workshops launched this week in Morgantown. The program will crisscross the state in the months leading up to the November election.

We won't be surprised if the workshops bear an uncanny resemblance to campaign rallies for Darrell McGraw. It's just another one of the unnatural advantages of incumbency in a state that tolerates a hostile legal climate and questionable ethics.

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