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Statehouse Beat: The end of the campaign trail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some more absolutely final thoughts about the election:

Locally, the race most likely to see at least one incumbent defeated is Kanawha's new 35th House of Delegates district.

Comprised of the western third of the old 30th mega-district, the 35th retains the two top voter-getters in the 30th in the 2010 general election: Delegates Doug Skaff, and Eric Nelson.

With the Upper Kanawha Valley no longer part of the district, it becomes more Republican-friendly, which bodes well for newcomers Suzette Raines and John McCuskey -- not to mention perennial Republican candidate (and grumpy old man) Fred Joseph, who came within 900 votes of winning the seventh seat in the 30th in 2010.

Meanwhile, former state tax commissioner and first-time Democratic candidate Chris Morris has run a strong campaign - including literally running in his campaign spots.

Assuming Skaff and Nelson top the ticket again Tuesday, that leaves six candidates fighting for two seats, which could bode badly for longtime incumbents Bonnie Brown and Bobbie Hatfield.

(Looking back at the 2011 redistricting, it may explain why Brown in particular was so vehemently opposed to Skaff's proposal to break the 30th up into two smaller districts...)

• • •

In his op-ed piece endorsing Josh Martin to succeed him in the 8th Senatorial District, Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, was his usual astute self in saying the election should be based on the issues, not on some nonsense dredged up from a decade ago.

Unfortunately, neither Martin nor Republican challenger Chris Walters heeded Foster's advice, and the 8th District race devolved into which candidate could find the most embarrassing photos and allegations to hurl at the other.

They say maturity comes with age; in which case, both Martin and Walters have a lot of growing up to do.

• • •

Speaking of mellowing with time, it was only 20-some years ago that U.S. Senate candidate John Raese either -- depending on the account -- threatened to, or attempted to throw a reporter out of a high-rise hotel window at the Republican National Convention.

Compare that to Raese today, who when told that Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber would be participating in Gazette candidate interviews (after Baber had declared Raese's attempts to link Joe Manchin with the Obama administration were bald-faced lies), simply turned and walked away.

It's also a more mature Raese who, when faced with insurmountable poll numbers in his rematch with Manchin, didn't resort to wild accusations or mud-slinging, but simply scaled back his campaign.

Speaking of low-key campaigns, if you blinked, you probably never saw Shelley Moore Capito's lone campaign spot.

• • •

Finally, getting back to The Greenbrier casino, ongoing discussions with a former casino employee cleared up one of the mysteries I had about how the resort has been running day trips to the casino under the guise of being "events."

Under the law, in order to trigger the "event" clause that permits non-overnight guests at the hotel to gain access to the casino, at least 400 rooms at the hotel must be booked.

Considering the bus companies promoting the casino day trips have multiple trips scheduled months in advance, many during weekdays during slow periods -- such as the present-time between fall foliage excursions and the holidays -- how could they have any reasonable expectation that 400 rooms would be occupied on any given date?

Simple, according to the ex-employee. He said hotel management maintains a call list of Greenbrier employees, interns and temporary workers, who can be called in to register as guests (at no room charge) as needed to bolster occupancy to the 400-room threshold.

For many hotel staffers who share apartments in White Sulphur Springs, the opportunity for a free night at The Greenbrier is quite a perk, he said.

While the impression has been that the day trips are a recent development, the ex-employee said they started in the fall of 2010, when it became clear the casino was not attracting the amount of business hoped for.(On many nights, he said, it was not uncommon to have 20 casino employees tending to a half-dozen patrons.)

Certainly, figures from the Lottery Commission suggest the casino is getting a big boost from somewhere. 

Total credits played on the video slots at the casino (which are the primary attraction for the day trippers) jumped from $11.9 million for July-Sept. 2010, to $17.9 million this past July-September.

Revenue from the casino -- in terms of gross terminal income on slot machines and table games privilege tax collections -- jumped 54 percent, going from $1.47 million for July-Sept. 2010 to $2.27 million for this July-September.

Keep in mind that $2.27 million is about equal to what Charles Town's Hollywood Casino pays in state table games privilege taxes every two weeks ...

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


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