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Statehouse Beat: Why people don't run for office

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A few brief answers to some seemingly obvious questions:

Why is it so hard to find good candidates for U.S. Senate and congressional seats? The Dems can't find a viable candidate to oppose Shelley Moore Capito for U.S. Senate or to challenge David McKinley in the 1st Congressional District.

Likewise, the GOP is having trouble finding a slam-dunk candidate to run for Capito's vacated 2nd District seat, even though Larry Sabato lists the district as "likely Republican," and has resorted to trying to get state Sen. Evan Jenkins to turn Republican to face a vulnerable Nick Rahall in the 3rd.

Actually, the problem is that the question is worded wrong. The question should be, in this current political atmosphere, why would anyone in their right mind want to put themselves through a congressional campaign?

Unless you're a Rockefeller, in the Citizens United era, you can be certain whatever amount of campaign funds you raise, you'll be outspent by the DCCC or NRCC (or the Senate committee counterparts), not to mention being subject to endless attack ads from any number of independent expenditure organizations.

Likewise, unless you're an established office-holder or politician whose background has been thoroughly vetted, new candidates can expect to have their life histories scoured by political operatives looking for the smallest missteps to turn into attack ad fodder.

On top of that, if you go through the entire costly, demoralizing process and win, your reward is membership in the most hostile, dysfunctional Congress in memory.    

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Is the state Democratic Party fragmented? Yes, but it has been for years. Lacking a viable minority party in much of the state for many years, Democrats have formed factions within the party: Liberal, pro-labor; moderate, pro-business; and conservatives who are philosophically aligned with the GOP, but run as Democrats out of political expediency.

And, of course, the state party's role in recruiting and backing candidates is entirely diminished in modern-day campaigns, driven by campaign ads and high-priced consultants. That's particularly true in congressional races.

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Should anyone be surprised that Patrick Morrisey is pursuing a right-wing agenda, including investigating abortion clinics, and dismantling his office's consumer protection division? Not if they were paying attention.

Many voters were so focused on retiring longtime Attorney General Darrell McGraw that they didn't think through the consequences of electing Morrisey.

A quick glance of campaign contributors makes clear those donors weren't banking on Morrisey to continue McGraw's legacy of strong consumer protection and willingness to take on big pharmaceutical companies for price-fixing.

That being said, it was a brilliant move on the part of House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, calling for Morrisey to investigate sales of pseudoephedrine being diverted for the manufacture of methamphetamine, and the extent that manufacturers of the antihistamine are aware a significant portion of their product's sales are driven by illegal drug manufacture.

Although it's near certain that nothing will come of Perdue's request, in chess terminology, that would have to be a "check."

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Finally, when I toured the then-new Mount Olive Correctional Center in 1994, I noticed the cells were wired for cable, and suggested that I could pull a stint there if I had HBO and ESPN. I was advised that inmates with good behavior could receive cable TV as a perk, but HBO was not part of the line-up.

I thought of that in looking at the Division of Corrections' new bid package for cable or satellite TV service to the penitentiary.

The contract specs include some requirements those of us outside the walls probably would appreciate. That includes requiring a strong, clear signal to all 1,100 TV outlets in the prison, the capability to view two channels simultaneously via split-screen, and a mandatory response to service calls within 24 hours.

The contract also specifies 47 channels required to be included on the prison's TV line-up, including all local network TV channels. It also requires a local cable access channel, an in-house prison channel, and CSPAN2 (but not CSPAN ... probably a good idea, since watching Congress could result in behavior problems).

Other mandatory channel offerings include: TBS, TNT, Discovery, TruTV, USA, Cartoon Network, Animal Planet, MTV, MTV 2, CMT, VH1, Spike, FX, SyFy<co>, TV Land, E!, Comedy Central, ABC Family, Bravo, AMC, TCM, National Geographic, Game Show Channel and BET.

Required news channels are MSNBC, Fox News and the Weather Channel, but not CNN.

Mandatory sports channels are ESPN, Golf Channel, Speed, and NBC Sports, but not Root Sports Pittsburgh, so the inmates won't be able to watch the Pirates' pennant run.

Interestingly, for a men's prison, the mandatory channels also include Lifetime and Oxygen.

The vendor may provide additional channels, according to the RFP, so long as they are provided at no additional charge and are approved by Corrections.

However, the bid request makes clear that "X-rated or above programming must not broadcast under any circumstances," including blocking ads or promos of cable or satellite channels that provide such programming.

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


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