By HOPPY KERCHEVAL

Patrick Morrisey and incumbent Darrell McGraw had a spirited race last year for West Virginia Attorney General.

McGraw refused to debate Morrisey, who he considered an interloper because of his recent relocation to West Virginia.

Morrisey thought McGraw part of the old-line Democratic regime in West Virginia that needed to be retired.

Morrisey prevailed, but the transition of the AG’s office from McGraw to Morrisey has been rough.

In interviews, Morrisey has tried to focus on the future, but when pressed on Metronews Talkline this week, he said, “We inherited a pretty big mess and we’re working diligently to fix it. It’s an even greater challenge than we imagined.”

Morrisey and others describe the office as disorganized, with no central system to track pending lawsuits and other legal action.

“That’s just not how you run a railroad,” Morrisey told me. “We’re instituting basic management practices to make sure that the state gets the best possible legal representation.”

But Fran Hughes, the former long-time Deputy Attorney General, who largely ran the office for McGraw, calls that “poppycock.”

“I believe we have provided him with an updated list of all the cases,” Hughes said on Metronews Talkline Thursday. “We’ve tried to make this a smooth transition from the very beginning.”

Hughes says she met with Morrisey team members one day after the election, but Morrisey’s people say they were denied space in the AG’s office during the transition to become familiar with the office.

Now, Morrisey’s team says they have to work night and day just to set up what they consider a functioning law office. In some cases, I’m told, staff voice mail service hasn’t worked for months.

Actually, that’s an area where the old and new administrations appear to agree: the dearth of the latest technology in the AG’s office. In McGraw’s defense, he often had an adversarial relationship with the Legislature, which made it hard for him to get money for computer upgrades.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Hughes is a professional, and so are the top people Morrisey has hired so far. A simple phone call would work wonders. Hughes could offer to answer any questions Morrisey has or Morrisey’s people could pick her brain.

After all, the office did not belong to McGraw, nor does it belong to Morrisey. It, like every other elected office, belongs to the people. As Hughes told me Thursday, “We want him (Morrisey) to succeed because West Virginians will lose if he doesn’t.”

And now that everyone has gotten their frustrations off their chests, the best way for that to happen is for the two sides to work together to smooth out the bump in this transition.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

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