SUNNY CAL POLYTICKS - Unbalanced, Slanted And Gritty

(02/06/2008)

HOT RACES, HITCHES AND SQUABBLES

- "A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterward to explain why it didn't happen." - Winston Churchill

- "Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation." - Henry Kissinger

- "Politicians can do more funny things naturally than I can think of to do purposely" - Will Rogers

By Bob Weaver OPINION AND COMMENT

Perhaps the biggest impression about Calhoun politics 2008 is the general lack of filers - disinterest.

The exception is five contenders for the 33rd District House of Delegates seat, with three from Calhoun, Ron Blankenship, Diann Clothier, and Larry Cottrell.

Filing from Gilmer, Rick Frame and David Walker from Clay.

It may well be that the public understands elected officials have really difficult jobs, jobs that have become work intensive over the years.

In earlier days, elected officials were required to have little knowledge, skill and or work-hardiness.

An old-time official once told me, "The girls take care of the office," while that official sat on a bench in front of the courthouse (with a chaw in place) campaigning for the next election.

The work load in a rural county with a small budget requires lots of effort, often requiring overtime.

The fact that three candidates have filed for House of Delegates in Calhoun, one in Gilmer and one in Clay, certainly creates a situation for those who think the delegate should come from Calhoun.

Calhoun was gerrymandered under Del. Bill Stemple's watch, with a few districts from Gilmer and Clay included to make it easy for a Calhouner to always be elected.

Interestedly, the close-to-the-vest filing of Stemple at the last minute, left a number of potential candidates questioning whether or not Stemple would run for another term, and could have led to an increase in candidate filing at the last minute.

Now, the chances of a Calhoun candidate being elected could be at risk.

Stemple has exhibited a severe detachment from Calhoun for several years while in the House, sadly failing to report his positions and votes in the legislature.

He has not fulfilled his duties as the county's Office of Emergency Service Director (OES), a position he has held for several years. He has essentially been a no-show.

Stemple's OES failure to perform, according to state officials, has left the county behind on a number of fronts, including an inability to obtain grant funding from Homeland Security, also creating some liability issues for the county because he has been a "no-show."

He is now offering to resign.

Perhaps one of Stemple's mistakes as a Delegate was to support failed gubernatorial candidate Lloyd Jackson, who ran against Joe Manchin.

Jackson, a multi-millionaire in the oil and gas business, was the likely choice of Stemple's oil and gas employer, the Morris'.

After Manchin beat Jackson and the House leadership changed, Stemple went to the basement.

Stemple, however, thrives using his one-on-one connections with people in the community. He is a convincing and effective campaigner.

While there is a general impression in the county he has a large following, a big vote getter, he has had very little competition over the past several years.

He has had enormous political support of the last political faction in the county.

Stemple is an employee of the late Carl Morris, now employed by Morris' son Jim, Stemple has dutifully spent hundreds of hours campaigning for candidates on the Morris slate, often escorting them around the county.

During the past few election cycles, the Morris-Stemple slate has not fared well, with voters choosing independent candidates.

Perhaps the most serious defeat was Jim Morris' wife who ran for County Commission six years ago, Lynn Gilbert, with voters choosing Rick Sampson. Sampson is now running for another term.

Now comes Stemple running for Sheriff again, with two Democrat opponents, former four-term sheriff Allen Parsons and newcomer Eugene Stevens.

The Sheriff's race will be hotly contested between Stemple and Parsons, already tainted by a well-spread rumor that Parsons will re-hire former chief Deputy Ron Bandy.

Bandy variously had problems during his employment, ending with an indictment alleging he stole from an elderly couple's house. His case was dropped, the prosecutor saying there was not enough evidence he committed a crime.

Parson's told the Herald "There is no way I would rehire Ron Bandy." "I suppose the rumor is to impress voters of my bad judgment," he said.

"I did stick with Ron Bandy through his difficult times, doing what a friend and Christian should do," Parsons said.

It will be interesting to see how the Stemple-Parsons race shakes out.

Maybe we should remember the words of a longtime Clay County politician - the late "Wide Glide" Sirk, who told everyone he meet at the beginning of the election cycle - "Until the election is over, don't believe a dam thing I say."

"Wide Glide," who long-supported a Clay politician who was generally crooked, when asked why he supported such a fellow, replied "He's a dumbass, but he's our dumbass."

Let the races begin.

POSTSCRIPT: Readers who have old-time political stories, we'd like to hear from you.


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