For years Mingo County and other similar southern West Virginia counties like Logan, McDowell and Lincoln, have had political slates.
A slate is a list of political candidates that are joined together to run in an upcoming election. It was commonplace to have these.
In the last few years, once it was deemed that slates are illegal, the terminology changed.
During the last big election in Mingo County, the powers that be called this slate “Team Mingo.” We suppose it was a way to make them feel like they were doing nothing illegal.
Even though a sitting circuit judge is not supposed to be involved in elections, everyone knew that Mike Thornsbury was the leader of this political group. It is alleged that he called the shots.
But let’s face it; this county has long had political bosses. From the days of “Blind” Billy Adair, Noah Floyd, Johnny Owens, Larry Hamrick and past political big shots in Mingo County, these people control elections.
There has been this unfortunate stereotype in our area: A pint of liquor and $5 will buy a vote. Of course, with inflation, that price per vote has gone up over the years.
What has not changed is the way elections are bought and paid for. Now - allegedly - groups like Team Mingo pay people to haul voters, hand out campaign literature and other election day “jobs.” The key here is they “pay” people.
Some of these people never haul the first voter.
In the book West Virginia Tough Boys, Vote Buying, Fist Fighting and a president named JFK” written by Keith Davis, he chronicled how John F. Kennedy and his family came into Mingo and Logan Counties and bought the primary election.
One of the best titles ever for a book about political corruption in West Virginia is “Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide: The Sordid And Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia,” by Dr. Allan Loughry.
There are others that make sure their large families get out and vote. When many apathetic voters stay away from the polls, the slates or Team Mingo’s of the world decide these elections.
Then there is the promise of jobs. If you look back through the years, people are given jobs in the courthouse, at the state highway department or other places with ties to the courthouse or political cronies.
It is common knowledge that certain people “suck up” to get jobs that they are not even qualified for. They draw a nice little salary; have great benefits - but it comes time to pay the piper. They have to continue to support certain candidates during the election cycle.
Campaigning is a way of life in Mingo County. Rallies are like a social outing. Food, music and glad-handing by all of the followers are something many look forward to.
In the past there were some indictments and arrests of political officials in southern W.Va. counties, including Mingo County.
Pessimists say that once these politicians get out, that another group of dirty elected officials will take over.
We want to be optimistic and hope that the latest purge of the Mingo County Courthouse will encourage more people to get out and vote. A two-party system, even a three-party system with Independents, should be encouraged for the betterment of our community and its residents.
Maybe now they will really believe they have a chance to win. Hopefully voters will know their tally on Election Day won’t be wasted, like in past years.
Let’s hope for a new, better Mingo County based on the following equations:
Team Mingo = Corruption
Corruption = Change
Change = A better tomorrow