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Let’s Just Move Mason County

May 28, 2011
By Mike Myer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

What about two important stakeholders from whom not much has been heard about political redistricting in West Virginia?

First, House of Delegates Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne. The state Senate Redistricting Committee has been at work for weeks, but Thompson just a few days ago appointed a House panel. What's he been waiting for? And, after having been creamed in the primary election for governor, will he attempt to use his influence over redistricting to rebuild his political power?

Second, former U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, who represented this area of the state until being humiliated in the 2010 primary election by Mike Oliverio. It has been speculated Mollohan may try a comeback in 2012 by attempting to unseat incumbent Rep. David McKinley, the Wheeling Republican.

How much - if any - influence will Mollohan have over redistricting? And if he has any power, how would he use it to boost his 2012 chances?

McKinley only won the 2010 election by 1,440 votes. That might tempt Mollohan to try to find a few strongly Democrat precincts in Republican U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's Second District, and use redistricting to place them in McKinley's First District.

I don't think it'll happen, in part because Mollohan's strength is questionable. He wasn't even able to win his home county, Marion, in the 2010 primary. My guess is even if he's thinking of a comeback, and even if he has some clout in the redistricting process, Democrat legislators would hesitate to engage in the blatant gerrymandering that might aid Mollohan.

Actually, there's no need to alter McKinley's First Congressional District at all. Federal law requires 2010 Census numbers be used to make each of the state's three districts as equal in population as possible, within a few percentage points.

One-third of West Virginia's population is 617,665 people. McKinley's district has 615,991 residents. It's close to perfect. Just leave it alone.

The ideal redistricting solution - to bring Capito's Second District in line with Democrat U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall's Third District - may well be simply to move Mason County out of the Second District and into Rahall's. It's a fairly neat method and I don't think either Capito or Rahall would object.

Loss of Mason County's Republican votes wouldn't hurt Capito, who won her last election by a more than two-to-one margin. It wouldn't hurt Rahall, who can count on the solidly Democrat voters of southern West Virginia.

So why not just make the Mason County change? Because, I'm told, some folks in Mason County don't like the idea. While I can see why they wouldn't want to be represented by Rahall, something has to give to comply with federal law.

Massive changes of the sort that have been suggested, throwing many counties into new districts, would irritate tens of thousands of voters. Why not just bite the bullet and put up with the complaints from Mason County?

There's a 2012 election opportunity for West Virginia Republicans that, while predictable, surprised some people: Gus Douglass is finally retiring.

Douglass has served as state commissioner of agriculture since 1964. In part because the commissioner is a member of the state Board of Public Works, the post is more important than some people may realize.

For many years, Douglass was a reliable winner for Democrats. But he's hanging up his pitchfork.

Now, I haven't spoken to the man about it, but I have a suggestion for an excellent candidate for commissioner of agriculture: Mike Teets, who owns a big farm in Hardy County.

Teets ran for the post in 2008 and did very well. He won 311,496 votes, losing to Douglass with 352,242. That's not bad, given Douglass' time in office. I remember Teets from 2008 as both an excellent campaigner and a fellow with a concern for agriculture in our state.

Myer can be reached via e-mail at

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