By Ron Gregory
Team Mingo lives on.
On a stormy night in Williamson, Team Mingo’s apparent leader, Greg “Hootie” Smith, pumped his fists behind the enclosure where votes are tabulated. That signal brought chants of “Hoo-tie, Hoo-tie” from the few supporters assembled in the courthouse. Usually, Team Mingo’s celebrations are held there. This time, as soon as Smith completed his duties as county commissioner, he darted under ropes that separated observers from election staff and across the street to where the real celebration was being held.
As the gloomy night in Mingo began to wrap up under a light drizzle, Smith and his supporters celebrated his 77-vote unofficial win over Lonnie Hannah. Despite the fact that at least four Team Mingo elected officials are bound for prison, its treasurer and leader, Smith, prevailed.
There are those on social media who have criticized the voters of Mingo for giving Team Mingo yet another victory. I will not do that. It is generally my sense that voters are more intelligent than most give them credit for being. Nobody can doubt that the electorate in Mingo knew of the Team Mingo sins. They gossiped about the alleged continuing investigation of remaining Team Mingo officials, including Smith. The U.S.Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, a Democrat who may run for governor in two years, has repeatedly called Team Mingo a “corrupt political faction.” Radio advertising spoke of the errors made by Team Mingo; this column has repeatedly discussed their shortcomings; and the Williamson Daily News has reported every item that came to its attention.
So, we cannot say that voters were uninformed. They know the charges against those going to jail. They know the rumors of further investigations. However, they either decided that Team Mingo deserves another chance or that the opposition was no better. Whatever, the people made the choice. I cannot dispute the decision they made. I will not call voters ignorant, because they were not. The decision was made with full knowledge of the charges against Team Mingo.
Smith might have beaten Hannah by the last-minute filing of election-related charges with the secretary of state by Smith. This is not, of course, the first time Smith and his buddies have instituted court or agency action against Hannah when it was too late for Hannah to respond.
For every election, there is another on the horizon. Like hapless Chicago Cubs fans, voters who were against Team Mingo can always shout, “Wait until the next election!” For now, though, the voters have spoken. They have said, “Team Mingo forever.”
It is clear that Democrat Delegate Justin Marcum, a Team Mingo player, had little trouble dispatching Michael Baisden. I had predicted that. Miki Thompson was victorious in the circuit judge race, where Mingo will finally get a citizen-elected judge. “Big Jim” Hatfield won the county commission seat left vacant by the conviction of the incumbent, Team Mingo member David Baisden. Hatfield, as anti-Team Mingo as they get, uses his personal charm to win time and again. He is a great guy.
My guess is if Hatfield had taken on Smith, instead of Mike Carter, the outcome election night would have been different. Hatfield would have beaten Smith; Hannah would have knocked off Carter and the majority on the county commission would have shifted from Team Mingo. As it now stands, Hatfield will be in the minority with Smith and holdover John Mark Hubbard. Thus, the majority can appoint Carter as county clerk, replacing Hatfield. The net loss is for the anti-Team Mingo forces, who lose the county clerk’s office and gain only one vote on the commission.
Pennsylvanian Wes White likely took enough votes from “Butch” West to cost him the prosecutor’s nomination against appointed incumbent Teresa Maynard. Maynard still has never taken or returned a call left by me. Again, voters knew that. They apparently don’t care that she is not prosecuting criminals and not responding to the media.
All-around good guy James Smith was a cinch to win the sheriff’s seat for the unexpired term while Team Mingo did not do well in the magistrate race. There, Jim Harvey was a relatively easy winner. His connections to Hatfield prevailed, proving that Hatfield should have been the centerpiece of the anti-Team Mingo campaign. Had that happened, the results overall would likely have changed.
But I accept the verdict of the voters. Their voices were heard and Smith is still a county commissioner.
… Meanwhile, Lincoln County is up to its usual election antics. This time, plenty of “provisional” or “challenged” ballots are waiting to give local favorite Gary McCallister the Democrat nomination for House of Delegates from the 22nd district. Lincoln’s part of the district had 59 challenged ballots at last count, while the remaining three counties (Boone, Logan and Putnam) had less than a dozen. Strange numbers always come from Lincoln. Incumbent Josh Barker had a three-vote margin on election night that can certainly be overcome by the provisional ballots to be considered.
… Your comments, story ideas and rumors are welcome. Use my email or call my cell, 304-533-5185.