By Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON — “The rope’s a lot easier to pull if we all pull in the same direction.”
That was the sentiment of Mingo County Clerk “Big Jim” Hatfield, who discussed party unity during a Democrat Executive Committee meeting Tuesday at the Mingo County Courthouse.
The meeting was called by Chairman H. Truman Chafin to select the party’s candidate for the unexpired term of family court judge. With nine members of the committee present, those assembled unanimously selected Jonathan “Duke” Jewell for the spot. The position was left vacant when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed former family court judge Miki Thompson as circuit judge. That came after former circuit judge Michael Thornsbury gave up his position as part of a federal plea bargain.
Since Tomblin appointed Thompson more than 84 days before the Nov. 4 general election, Hatfield has taken the position that the office will appear on the ballot. Some argue that Tomblin, instead, gets to nominate the person filling the term.
Chafin said at the meeting, “out of an abundance of caution” he had called the committee together to recommend their nominee. Jewell and attorney Robert Carlton were the only two who applied. Both spoke to the committee before the vote.
Member Freddie Newsome nominated Jewell and there were no other nominations. When Chafin asked for a show of hands, all nine present voted for the nominee. Those present, in addition to Hatfield and Newsome, were Emily Howell, who acted as secretary in the absence of Lisa Kirk; Frances Crawford; “Big Ern” Williams; Dave Justice; Stephanie Wollum and Dan Kinder.
Chafin said Jewell’s name would be forwarded to the county clerk and pointed out “the Republicans have a right to do the same thing.” While some may dispute holding an election, Chafin added, “I think it will all work out.”
Some have speculated that Tomblin, notorious for failing to fill appointed vacancies, might be satisfied to name the candidate recommended by the Democrat Executive Committee, making the election moot.
Earlier, Jewell had spoken of his experience running for circuit judge in the May primary. “I came back here and my wife and I intend to raise our family here in Mingo,” he said. “I am compassionate toward our children.”
Carlton said he, too, is a “children’s advocate.” He said, “I was divorced and raised my children alone for five years. I know the toll that takes on a mom and dad and the innocent children. I will look out for the child’s welfare first and foremost.”
Chafin said a meeting will be held sometime in September and he is working with Democrat U.S. Rep. Nick Joe Rahall to schedule a campaign rally here in the fall.