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Charges a Sign of Times In Political Campaigns

You have to wonder how long it took state Sen. Mike Maroney’s enemies to find Chapter 61, Article 10, Section 21 of the West Virginia Code. It’s not the kind of thing one just stumbles upon. It certainly isn’t common knowledge. Cpl. R.S. Marant of the Pleasants County Sheriff’s Department had to be advised by someone — he hasn’t said who — that Maroney was in violation of the law.

It appears he is. His offense? Horror of horrors, Maroney neglected to explain his medical degree to people viewing his political campaign signs.

We don’t make these things up. As we explained in a story Friday, Maroney’s signs identify him as Dr. Mike Maroney. The law noted above requires that he add “suitable words or letters designating the degree which he holds.” It happens to be an M.D. degree from Marshall University, in case you’re wondering.

Enacted in 1931, the statute requires anyone using Dr. or Doctor on signs, in advertisements, even in letters and on business cards, to specify the type of doctorate held. Failure to do so is a crime.

Last week, Marant was tipped off that Maroney was in violation. Warrants were issued. What a coincidence it was that someone happened to tell the corporal about the signs just eight days before the election in which Maroney hopes to hold his seat in the state Senate. He represents District 2, which includes part of Marshall County, all of Tyler and Wetzel counties and several others.

Before Maroney could be arrested, the Pleasants County prosecutor dropped the charges.

Interestingly, they were dismissed “without prejudice” — which means they could be refiled. Yes, that is strange.

It’s no secret that Maroney has had other brushes with the law, including a misdemeanor charge — not a conviction — that he solicited a prostitute in 2019. Maroney blames delays in resolving the case on the Marshall County prosecutor’s office.

Maroney has suggested, without using the word “conspiracy,” that some people may be out to get him.

Even his opponent in the Tuesday election, Josh Gary, agrees the sign charges were stupid. “We shouldn’t be clogging up our court system with cases such as these,” he commented.

Still, it appears someone saw the opportunity to take a cheap shot at Maroney.

Understand that I personally and this newspaper generally have had our differences with Maroney. Put it this way: Not all of our conversations have been pleasant.

But clearly, the senator isn’t just suffering from a persecution complex. The fact that someone went to the considerable trouble of finding 61-10-21 of the State Code, then tipping a sheriff’s corporal in Pleasants County off that Maroney was in violation, speaks volumes.

Mud slinging is as old as politics. These days we dignify it with the term “opposition research.” The sign fiasco goes beyond that, however. For a time, there was the distinct possibility that Maroney could have been arrested by Marshall County authorities acting on the Pleasants County warrants.

How has mud slinging harmed the political process? Quick: Name three public policy issues in the Maroney-Gary race.

Politics has become a matter of making voters dislike people, not their policy ideas. That’s crazy — and dangerous.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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