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Statehouse beat: Another group of winners and losers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There's one group of winners and losers that we haven't talked about much from the general election, and that's the political consultants.

Biggest winner overall Nov. 6 was probably the Manahan Group, which, as previously noted, did the TV spots in Allen Loughry's surprise state Supreme Court victory.

Additionally, Manahan Group did Treasurer John Perdue's re-election campaign, and shows up among the consultants on Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's re-election. (That's because Chris Stadleman was campaign spokesman.)

At the other extreme, Larry LaCorte's Rainmaker Media may have had the toughest night, as client Tish Chafin went from what many pundits (not this one) thought would be a victory to win the second Supreme Court seat on the ballot to finishing last in the four-person field.

Locally, Rainmaker also did TV spots for Chris Morris in the 35th Delegate District race. The spots, in which Morris literally ran to show why he was running for office, were good, but evidently not good enough to win a seat in the four-member district.

Interestingly, two Republicans in statewide races used the same national media consultants -- Strategic Media Services of Washington, and Rising Tide Media of Alexandria, Va., -- but with very different outcomes.

Patrick Morrisey won the attorney general's race, undoubtedly benefiting from millions of dollars' worth of special interest attack ads against Attorney General Darrell McGraw, while Bill Maloney got trounced in the governor's race -- perhaps because the political action arm of the Republican Governors' Association scaled back its attacks on Tomblin this time around.

Maloney also hired Greg Thomas' Targeted Communications Strategies Group, and a whole host of operatives, including Seth Wimer, Bryan Hoylman, Donnie Adkins, Joe Harmon, Brad Headley and Kent Sholars, to no avail.

Of course, Tomblin had some big-gun national consultants on his payroll, including Struble Eichenbaum, out of Washington, Media Strategies and Research in Fairfax, Va.; and the Global Strategy Group in New York.

***

Back during the Hurricane Sandy coverage, I was grousing about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie doing media updates from that state's massive, modern Emergency Operations Center, while West Virginia is stuck with a tiny, outdated EOC crammed into the basement of the Capitol's East Wing.

That could be changing, now that the state has awarded a $685,000 contract to ZMM Architects to design a new EOC, either through a build-out of the Neumedia Building at the Northgate office park, or with new construction near the National Guard headquarters at Coonskin Park.

Design specs call for a fairly large 65,000- to 70,000-square-foot facility.

Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Lester said the current facility is inadequate, particularly if frequent, severe weather events are, in fact, the "new normal."

The current set-up, which is about the size of two typical living rooms put end-to-end, can get pretty crowded, with representatives of the National Guard, state Homeland Security, Division of Highways, National Weather Service, State Police and other agencies occupying the site, around-the-clock, often for days on end.

Lester said funding for the project will have to be secured once the architectural design is completed.

Hey, if West Virginia has to get the follow-up series to "Jersey Shore" on MTV, shouldn't we at least have a state-of-the-art EOC like our compatriots in the Garden State?

***

Speaking of, did anyone have any doubt that Sen. Joe Manchin would channel his Uncle Jimmy in calling out MTV executives for scheduling the "Buckwild" reality series?

Were he still with us, there's no doubt that A. James Manchin would have been on the first flight to New York to unleash his vitriol over their intentions to depict West Virginia in what we presume will be a less-than-favorable light.

***

Finally, Gerald Ratliff notes that Tomblin was not the first Logan Countian to cause a controversy by pitching a tent on the Capitol grounds.

Ratliff forwarded Gazette clippings about three Logan County men who set up a tent on the Capitol grounds, across from the Governor's Mansion, in the spring of 1968 to protest cuts in welfare benefits.

(One protestor indicated his benefits were being cut from $268 to $165 a month, not enough to cover his monthly expenses, including a $40 car payment.)

According to the accounts, the men set up camp May 22 and remained until June 3, after getting assurances from then-Gov. Hulett Smith that he would look into the matter.

While many things have changed (the reports indicate the men pitched their tent next to the now-nonexistent Duffy Street), after 44 years, much is still the same.

An article by the legendary Don Marsh states, "Theoretically, the men are protesting cuts in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children of the Unemployed (AFDCU). But in talking to them it is easy to get the impression that what they are really concerned about is some sort of ill-defined system -- presumably manipulated by large corporations -- that leaves some people very rich, and others very poor."

It's not clear what actions Gov. Smith took on the men's behalf -- but we do know that in 1969, the Legislature passed a bill making it illegal to camp on the Capitol grounds without written permission.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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