Edgell, Leonhardt May Duel
You may not have seen the last of Kent Leonhardt, as I suggested after the election last fall. Leonhardt may be planning to run for the West Virginia Senate next year.
If so, he will be taking on incumbent Sen. Larry Edgell, who plans to run for re-election next year.
Leonhardt, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, and his wife own a 380-acre agribusiness in the corner of Monongalia County that falls into state Senate District 2. The district includes Wetzel, Tyler, Doddridge, Ritchie and Calhoun counties and parts of Marshall, Monongalia, Marion and Gilmer counties.
Last year, Leonhardt, a Republican, ran an excellent race against one of the state’s most entrenched Democrats, Walt Helmick of Pocahontas County. Both men wanted to be state commissioner of agriculture.
Helmick won, but not by much. The final vote tally in November had him gaining election with 316,571 votes, or 51.6 percent of the total, to Leonhardt’s 297,088. That showing, along with Leonhardt’s talent for campaigning, prompted Republican leaders to encourage him to try again.
But if he does, he’ll be in a race that, in some respects, will be even tougher than that for agriculture commissioner.
Edgell, a Democrat who’s a retired educator, was born in Hundred, not terribly far from where Leonhardt’s farm is located. He now lives in New Martinsville.
Edgell first won election to the Senate in 1998 and has risen steadily to the point that during the just-ended legislative session, he was speaker pro tempore of the Senate. He is widely respected by both fellow Democrats and Republicans.
The toughest challenge Edgell has faced in state politics was his first Senate race, in 1998. Then, he gained 11,253 votes to handily overcome Republican Charles Clements, also of New Martinsville.
In 2002, no Republican even tried to run against Edgell. Then, in 2006, he overwhelmed the GOP’s Wayne Weber, by a vote tally of 17,009-9,184. Last time around, in 2010, he ran unopposed again.
As a result of the 2010 Census, the Second District’s boundaries have been altered, but only slightly. One measure of Edgell’s strength is that in his last race, 2006, he lost just one county (Doddridge) – and that only narrowly.
Still, if Leonhardt gets into the race, as I’m told he will, he will be a formidable opponent for Edgell.
As I pointed out in a column not long after the November elections, the balance of political power in the United States has gone, without question, to the big cities. President Barack Obama was re-elected solely on the strength of his performance there. Nearly exclusively, rural and small-town America voted for his opponent, Republican Mitt Romney.
As I also pointed out last fall, big cities have benefitted financially from that clout. When decisions about how to dole out federal money are made, they often are driven by how many votes Uncle Sam’s generosity can buy.
More evidence of that is being presented by Obama himself in his budget proposal for fiscal 2014.
As we reported Friday, Obama wants to change the Community Development Block Grant program. Smaller cities, including Wheeling, would get less CDBG money.
Obama is making his plan obvious. His proposed change would “ensure that communities receive grants large enough to be more effective in advancing the goals of the program,” the White House says in one budget document. In other words, big cities get more money. The rest of us get less.
Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron thinks what is happening is obvious: “This is clearly an effort to shift funds from rural, smaller communities to larger communities,” he said during a meeting this week.
Precisely. And folks, it’s going to get worse. Obama and his fellow liberals know where the votes are – and they’re determined to use our money to buy them.
Myer can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.